Market Eye: Portland’s Hip Replacement

People end up in Portland, Ore., for all sorts of reasons. They were priced out of San Francisco or Seattle. They were drawn to an eclectic food, wine and craft beer scene. They were enchanted by the city’s offbeat vibe.

Or they recently acquired TV stations in DMA No. 23. LIN grabbed KOIN in 2012, while Gannett snagged KGW in its Belo acquisition last year and Sinclair took hold of KATU when it obtained Fisher.

New owners mean fresh resources. “There’s a lot of investment being made,” says DJ Wilson, president and general manager at KGW, mentioning sets, talent and technology. “There’s lots of activity— no one is resting on their laurels.”

No one can afford to, with multiple stations claiming various key races. ABC-aligned KATU took a tight total day household ratings race in the May sweeps. CBS affiliate KOIN won primetime, just ahead of NBC affiliate KGW. Meredith’s Fox affiliate KPTV was tops in 10 p.m. news and KOIN won 11 p.m., its 3.5 household rating/9 share topping KGW’s 3.1/8. (KATU won adults 25-54 at 11.) KATU was No. 1 at 6 p.m. (KGW took adults 25-54) while KPTV cleans up in the morning derby.

KGW relaunched its Sunrise a.m. show September 22, with a new set and graphics, and full HD from field to studio. (KGW has been airing in HD for years, but Wilson says “the last piece” has been added.) Sander Media holds the station license until Gannett completes its newspaper divestment next year. Wilson credits Gannett for its dedication to local broadcasting. “They’re always looking for opportunities to be local and be embedded in the community,” she says, mentioning a high school sports initiative with USA Today.

KOIN is enjoying its parent’s vast scale too; LIN is in the process of merging with Media General.

Adrienne Roark, former VP/ news director at KTVT Dallas, came on board as president/general manager in June. The station has a “Watching Out for You” brand with investigative and accountability as its cornerstones. “We build that throughout every newscast and everything we do,” she says.

Meredith owns MyNetworkTV affiliate KPDX. Sinclair has Univision-aligned KUNP alongside KATU. Tribune owns CW affiliate KRCW. Comcast is Portland’s main subscription TV operator.

KPDX debuted 9 p.m. news on Sept. 29. “More than ever before, we live in an on-demand world,” says Andy Delaporte, KPTV-KPDX VP/general manager. He called the newscast “a direct response to the needs” of busy residents.

Busy as it may be, Portland slipped behind Pittsburgh in the new Nielsen DMA rankings. Its revenue rank, per BIA/Kelsey, is a dismal No. 36. Outside of the food and beer, it’s not a consumptionoriented market, says Wilson, with the locals more eager to hike and bike than shop.

But Portland’s natural beauty and lively arts scene continue to make it a destination. Wilson, for one, is unbowed by the economic challenges. “We are the hottest, hippest place on earth,” she says.


As Portland stations try news in new time slots, KGW has a worthy performer in its 7 p.m. newscast. The show turns five in November, and DJ Wilson, president and general manager, says the offbeat nature of Live at 7 plays well in the time period. It airs out of KGW’s Studio at the Square facility downtown, features the “Top 8 Things You Need to Know,” and has a reporter situated at a live event—a play, concert, farmer’s market—each day. Entertainment and lifestyle topics get robust coverage.

“It’s a different, very hyper-local kind of show,” says Wilson.

There is no beating Jeopardy! on KATU, but Wilson says the 7 p.m. news, which leads into Inside Edition, is a consistent No. 2. “Very few [7 p.m. newscasts] succeed,” she says. “We’re one of them.”

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.