Market Eye: Colossal Challenges

As California’s economy sputters, so does life in its capital. The state’s whopping budget woes mean heavy layoffs and furloughs for state employees, a substantial drag on life in Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto. To make matters worse, Stockton has had one of the worst foreclosure rates in the country.

“California is going through some challenging times,” says KCRA/KQCA President/General Manager Elliott Troshinsky. “As the capital, maybe we’re more impacted than the rest of the state.”

But things are starting to improve. Housing sales are picking up, and there is political money on the horizon. “Hopefully next year is a huge political year, with the governor’s seat open,” says KTXL VP/General Manager Bob Ramsey. California’s various ballot issues, he adds, help, too.

The No. 20 DMA shifted to Nielsen’s Local People Meters in January. General managers say it means fewer ratings points available, as is typical in LPM markets. But the pecking order does not appear to have been affected; it’s still a slugfest between Hearst NBC outlet KCRA and KOVR, the CBS O&O. KOVR, which starts primetime at 7 p.m., won that race and took 10 p.m. news with a 5.0 household rating/9 share. KCRA barely nipped KMAX’s Good Day Sacramento in mornings, while also taking evening and 11 p.m. news, the latter with a 5.3/13.

According to BIA Financial, KCRA led the revenue pack with $47.8 million last year, ahead of KOVR’s $46.7 million.

Hearst, CBS and Univision own duopolies: Hearst with KCRA and MyNetworkTV outlet KQCA, CBS with KOVR and CW affiliate KMAX, and Univision with Univision-TeleFutura combo KUVS-KTFK. Other stations include Gannett’s ABC affiliate KXTV and Tribune’s Fox affiliate KTXL.

The market offers a mix of state government and agriculture; both push commuters onto the road earlier and earlier. To greet them when they wake, KMAX moved up the start time of Good Day Sacramento a half-hour to 4:30 a.m. KTXL boosted its morning output to 4½ hours daily last fall, up from two. Ramsey, who took over for Audrey Farrington last year, says the station is looking to expand news; evenings present one option. “[Expansion] makes nothing but sense,” he says. “We have the No. 1 network, so it’s right to take advantage of it.”

Stations are trying some new things to jump-start revenue. KTXL has LATV on its digital tier, while KQCA debuted This TV a few months ago. The CBS stations are having luck with the health-care category and sponsored social campaigns, such as one that provided school supplies for local children. “We’ve always been tied to automotive advertising,” says KOVR/KMAX VP/GM Kevin Walsh. “Now we’re going after anything we can find that’s been a little bit atypical for us.”

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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.