Market Eye: Doubling Down on Local

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Las Vegas TV stations are stacking chips on their own product, and none more so than KSNV. The NBC affiliate will part ways with Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! this fall and will bid farewell to Dr. Phil in 2014. In the syndicated shows' place will be local programs. “Our owner [InterMountain Media West] no longer wants to be held hostage to syndication,” says Lisa Howfield, KSNV VP and general manager. “We believe the strength of our station is providing local, relevant news.”

KLAS has a different take. The CBS affiliate features a rocking primetime, and will supplement that and its award-winning news with KSNV’s syndication castoffs. “The three [shows] together bring eyeballs,” says Emily Neilson, president and GM. “Eyeballs bring revenue.”

KSNV made the break from Nielsen last October, with Howfield citing high cost and small sample size. The station now relies on Rentrak for ratings. KLAS’ Neilson likes Rentrak too, noting the sample is 30,000 as opposed to about 400 Nielsen homes. KLAS runs the table in the Rentrak ratings, while it split some area Nielsen races in the February sweeps. KLAS won totalday household ratings, along with primetime and late news—its 5.1 rating/10 share ahead of ABC affiliate KTNV’s 3.7/7. The adults 25-54 race at 11 p.m. was freakishly close—KLAS finished a tenth of a point ahead of KSNV, KTNV and Fox affiliate KVVU, but all trailed Univision’s KINC. KSNV won mornings and early evening easily.

KLAS turns 60 this summer. After offloading WTVF Nashville in the fall, owner Landmark plans to also sell KLAS when the shattered Vegas economy solidifies. The station thrives on stability among anchors and management, says Neilson, and Landmark’s commitment to its people and technology when other stations cut back in the lean years. Neilson also mentions “our commitment to quality news,” evident in the 2013 duPont Award KLAS claimed for a series on Nevada’s housing crisis. The station offers four mobile apps, including one dedicated to its investigative team, and simulcasts its signal to equipped mobile devices.

Meredith owns KVVU. Todd Brown, formerly general sales manager, took over the GM job in December. In fall 2014 the station will pick up the syndicated Ellen from KLAS and air it at 4 p.m. Last year, KVVU trimmed More Access to a half-hour at 6:30 p.m. “We wanted to take it to more of a syndication model, and have a larger local news presence,” says Brown.

Journal Broadcast owns KTNV, which last year added Judge Judy and moved its 4 p.m. news to 3:30. Kicking off live-streaming to mobile devices later this month, KTNV features the tagline “Together Making Las Vegas a Better Place to Live.” Former KSNV anchor Beth Fisher presents daily reports focusing on the positives going on in Vegas. “People have really responded to those stories,” says Jim Prather, executive VP at Journal and GM of KTNV.

Cox is Vegas’ main subscription TV operator.

KSNV is looking more like a cable news channel. Public affairs shows include the nightly Ralston Report at 7:30 as well as The Weekly Reid, hosted by Senator Harry Reid’s son Rory.

A dismal real estate market keeps the Vegas economy depressed; attorney ads, related to foreclosure and bankruptcy, are an ironic silver lining to the clouds hanging over DMA No. 40. Things may be picking up: An Asianthemed hotel called Resorts World is scheduled to open on the Strip in 2016. NAB Show attendees this month got a peek at a massive “observation wheel” under construction behind Caesars Palace. “I don’t think we’ll see the height of the market we saw in ’06-’07,” says Brown, “but it’s certainly better than it was.”

The TV leaders continue to duke it out with very different strategies. Neilson invokes a fitting local metaphor when discussing her rivals. “There’s great competition here,” she says. “No one leaves anything on the table.”

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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.