Market Eye: CBS 'Boots' UpIn Tiny Texas Market

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Several TV markets feature duopolies, and a handful have triopolies. But few, if any—other than Victoria, Texas—feature all Big Four network affiliates and two primary Spanish-language stations under one roof.

When CBS kicks off on KXTS in southern Texas on Sept. 12, that will be the setup in Nielsen’s 204th-ranked (out of 210) market. The six affiliated stations, and a handful of subchannels, operate under Saga Communications’ Victoria Television Group banner. “I don’t like to use the word monopoly,” said Jeff Pryor, president and general manager of the megachannel Victoria operation.

Still, such a setup begs the question of whether it is legal—and it is. Saga owns one full-power station in the market in ABC affiliate KAVU, and four low-powers, including NBC affiliate KMOL. Saga manages Surtsey Productions’ Fox affiiate KVCT; the station airs Telemundo and This TV on its .2 and .3 channels. “The way the FCC sees it, you can own as many low-powers as you can eat,” said Pryor. (An FCC spokesperson said the arrangement in Victoria is indeed legit.)

Victoria did not have its own CBS affiliate, though KENS San Antonio is piped in on Suddenlink’s cable system. KXTS gave up its MyNetworkTV affiliation to pick up CBS, which will air in HD. The network said it is “proud” to set up shop in Victoria; the deal was about a year in the works. “As the first CBS station to serve the viewers of Victoria, it’s a welcome opportunity to make CBS a vital part of the community and to continue growing our successful relationship with Saga Communications,” Diana Wilkin, president of CBS affiliate relations, said in a statement last month.

Saga has a history with CBS, through affiliates in Pittsburg–Joplin (Kan.–Mo.) and Greenville (Miss.).

Sixty-two people work out of the Victoria Television Group facility. KAVU is a giant, commanding nearly twothirds of the market’s revenue last year, according to BIA/ Kelsey. The station wins every ratings race handily. Its 6 rating/21 share in total day households in the May sweeps obliterated KMOL’s 1 rating/4 share. KAVU posted a 47 share at 6 p.m. and won 10 p.m. news with a 19/37.

The stations brought in an estimated $6.4 million last year, according to BIA/Kelsey, with KAVU grabbing $4.2 million. The population in the DMA is 88,000; some 41% claim Hispanic origin.

There is a joint Website at and a joint news brand in Newscenter 25, which 14 people staff. Everyone fills multiple roles in covering the sizeable 13-county market. “They act in every capacity—anchors, producers,” said Henry Medrano, the news director. “They’re all one-man bands.” The new CBS affiliation is particularly sweet for Medrano, who speaks fondly of the 18 years he spent with CBS Newspath in San Antonio.

The Texas wildfires, which were about 100 miles from Victoria at presstime, are a major news story.

KAVU has a full slate of newscasts and KVCT airs a 9 p.m. news. There are local news cut-ins during Today and Good Morning America, and bilingual reporter Marithza Calderon provides weather on Univision outlet KUNU. “It’s ‘Your Hometown News,’ and that’s exactly what we are,” said Pryor. “Weather, local news, local sports.”

The new CBS affiliate will have some sort of news presence, if not full newscasts, but not right away. “CBS is willing to let us get the affiliation established,” said Pryor, “then get set up for news.”

Victoria is very much an entry-level market for talent; Medrano concedes the pay is hardly princely. “It’s not that great, is all I can tell you,” he conceded.

The newsroom staff works with two-year contracts, after which talent typically moves up the DMA ladder. “We train them, build them up, and boom—they’re gone after two years,” lamented Medrano.

Pryor stokes competition in the sales department by dividing the crew into three: one selling the Spanishlanguage channels; one selling Fox, NBC and This TV; and one focused on ABC, CBS and a local subchannel. The newsroom isn’t the only place where people wear multiple hats. “I do national sales, except for the Spanish-language channels. I’m the general sales manager. I do programming and I clean the men’s room on Thursdays, too,” said Pryor.

Victoria is about 25 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, near the middle of a triangle mapped out by San Antonio, Corpus Christi and Houston. City government and a local hospital are main employers, and a new Caterpillar facility will bring around 200 jobs. A recently discovered oil field has turned Victoria into something of a boomtown.

Armadillo Fest returned to Victoria Sept. 3-4 after a 20-year hiatus. The event features live music, barbecue and an armadillo race. A large part of the market is agricultural, but Pryor disputes the “sleepy” tag one might stick Victoria with. “Yes, it’s a small town,” he said. “But there are lots of movers and shakers in the community.”

CBS’ newest market is true Texas: The Victoria Convention & Visitors Bureau’s slogan is “Bring Your Boots.” Said Pryor: “That kind of says it all.”

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Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.