Market Eye: Land of EnchantmentFor Local TV Stations | @BCMikeMalone

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The broadcast stations may hold a significant place in Albuquerque, N.M., viewers’ hearts and minds, but it is a particular cable show that has dominated the discussion this fall. Breaking Bad, AMC’s saga of an unlikely meth kingpin set in Albuquerque, wrapped on Sept. 29, and cast members spent the past few weeks popping up on the stations’ morning shows, including Albuquerque native Steven Michael Quesada (who plays DEA agent Steve Gomez) on 2KASA Style. “We love that show as everybody else does, but it’s particularly special to us,” says Bill Anderson, president and general manager at KRQE-KASA.

With the Bad bunch now departed, the stations will enjoy their starring role in Albuquerque-Santa Fe residents’ lives again. DMA No. 47 is the rare statewide TV market (Salt Lake City is another) with vast rural stretches. “This is how they stay connected, maybe more so than other places where I’ve managed,” says Anderson. “The communities feel isolated geographically and culturally, and the stations play a big part in binding them together.”

It is a heckuva local ratings race. Hearst TV’s KOAT won total-day in the May sweeps. LIN’s KRQE, a CBS affiliate, won primetime. KRQE and KOAT were virtually deadlocked in late news (8 household rating/ 14+ share) but KOAT, an ABC affiliate, is dominant in the adults 25-54 demo, coasting to a win with a 6/17.9. KOAT grabbed mornings and 6 p.m. news.

“Our key is consistency more than anything,” says Mary Lynn Roper, KOAT president and general manager. “We truly understand New Mexico.

Close Battle for the Top

Entravision’s KLUZ is a Spanish-language news power. Hubbard owns KOB. With a little help from NBC’s primetime, the station will grab some titles too. BIA/Kelsey has KOAT and KRQE within a percentage point of each other in estimated 2012 revenue, an intense race that KRQE took with $22.6 million.

There’s big stuff happening in ABQ TV. KRQE and Fox affiliate KASA welcomed two stations to the fold (and their building) as KWBQ-KASY, Tamer Media’s CW-MyNetworkTV duo, moved in under a new operating agreement. KWBQ features sitcoms under the banner “See Funny? CW,” while KASY is a male-targeted destination. “For all practical purposes, it functions like a man cave,” says Anderson.

KOB has a new news director in Michelle Donaldson. She ran news at KRQE—literally across the street from KOB—before shifting to KPHO Phoenix. Donaldson says KOB enjoys a breaking news heritage and legacy status in viewers’ minds. Now it has stability in the newsroom, and a fresh perspective. “The city has changed, but there’s not a lot of change in the newsrooms,” Donaldson says. “Everyone [in town] seems to be stuck in a rut.”

Some 43% of the market’s population is of Hispanic origin, according to BIA/Kelsey. Spanish-language TV options include Univision’s KTFQ, which is aligned with UniMás, and Ramar’s Telemundo outlet KTEL. Univision affiliate KLUZ airs local news at 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. and features significant radio assets in the market with a regional Mexican music station and an ESPN Deportes affiliate. “We cross-promote all talent across the board,” says Jeff Apodaca, Entravision executive VP of the Mountain Region. “Clearly, we tie clients into that too.”

Comcast is the major subscription TV operator.

The ‘Wild West’ of Local News

The local economy is steady. The government is a major employer, which brings some consistency in employment and spending. “Unemployment is a little lower than the national average, and homes are selling again,” says Roper. “People feel a lot more positive.”

Albuquerque is a lively news town with healthy tune-in; nearly 30 household rating points were in play at 10 p.m. in May. Devastating flooding dominated the breaking news cycle in mid-September. “This is the Wild West—lots of investigative news presents itself in the market,” says Anderson. “We stay very busy.”

Stations are trying new things. KASA kicked off a 7 a.m.-9 a.m. newscast on Sept. 16. KOAT’s new satellite truck sports the same bright yellow paint job as its Sky 7 helicopter; both reflect the New Mexico state flag.

Choppers are essential in the sprawling market, but they will have to keep a safe distance when the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival takes place Oct. 5-13. It features hot-air balloon races, fireworks and rodeo, among other festivities, and may be a better showcase of the market’s attributes than Walter White and his famous blue meth. “Albuquerque is far better off being remembered for something like [the Balloon Festival],” says Donaldson. “It touches a lot of people’s lives.”

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.