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Market Eye: Manning the Mile-High Skies

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Denver may have lost a media sensation to the New York Jets, but the market gained a comparable one when quarterback Peyton Manning signed on to replace Tim Tebow with the Broncos. It means lots of football coverage well before the fall.

Manning’s arrival is a windfall in particular for Denver stations that air Broncos games. Besides preseason games, NBC affiliate KUSA has a pair of Sunday-night contests and two more Monday matchups on sister KTVD. CBS affiliate KCNC has 11 Broncos games. “It’s the Year of Peyton Manning,” says Walt DeHaven, VP/general manager of KCNC, a CBS O&O. “Eleven out of 16 games is a big deal for us.”

DMA No. 17 has long been dominated by Gannett’s KUSA, but rivals say it’s a closer race, thanks to KUSA’s NBC affiliation, Nielsen’s local people meters and their own intensified efforts. “You could argue it’s getting closer,” says Mark Cornetta, KUSA president/GM. “But we still dominate when it comes to news.”

News offerings abound. The English-language stations produce 17 hours of live local news each morning. There are two 9 p.m. newscasts and four at 10 p.m. There is news in non-traditional slots, such as 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Spanishlanguage stations in the market are increasing their news presence, too. “We’ve found there’s an appetite for local news no matter where you do it,” says Byron Grandy, VP/GM of ABC affiliate KMGH. “Denver has a wonderful appetite for news.”

KMGH has a new owner in Scripps. Scripps is no stranger to the market—the company owned the Rocky Mountain News until the paper closed in 2009. “Scripps is excited to be back in Denver, and excited to make a big impact,” Grandy says.

Scripps also acquired an Azteca America affiliate in Denver via the deal with McGraw-Hill that brought it KMGH. There are several other lively Spanish-language stations in the market, including Telemundo’s KDEN, Liberman’s Estrella channel and Entravision’s batch of TV (Univision, TeleFutura) and radio outlets. Entravision’s KCEC airs 5 and 10 p.m. news and the political show Perspectiva Nacional.

“It’s our goal to provide the Hispanic population with the information they’re looking for,” says Don Daboub, KCEC station manager, citing a focus on the economy, health, education and immigration.

Other Denver players include Local TV’s Fox affiliate KDVR and Tribune’s CW station KWGN, which share management and a facility. Gannett has MyNetworkTV affiliate KTVD. Comcast is the major subscription TV operator in the market.

KDVR-KWGN both offer distinct 5-9 a.m. newscasts, and combine for 62.5 hours of local news each week. “There are two different talent crews and two different studios,” says Peter Maroney, president and general manager.

It remains KUSA’s title to lose. The station won total day household ratings in the May sweeps, along with morning, early evening and late news; its 6.3 rating/13 share at 10 p.m. topped KCNC’s 6/12.2, while KUSA’s margin in viewers 25-54 was wider. KCNC won primetime households and KMGH won primetime 18-49.

KUSA’s Cornetta is pushing hard on a digital strategy that resulted in 30.5 million page views in May (source: Omniture) for, and popular apps for news and weather. “It’s helped us be more relevant to our community,” he says.

Colorado is a major swing state; spending from the presidential candidates and Super PACs began pouring in last month. “Colorado is not your garden-variety swing state,” says Maroney, citing the high number of Tea Party voters.

Coloradoans are well-informed as the campaigns heat up. “There are very good competitors in our market,” says Cornetta. “They all do good local news, and it makes us all better.”

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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.