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Market Eye: Springing Ahead in Missouri

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Perhaps no television market has witnessed more upheaval over the past year than Springfield, Mo. Last April, Brian McDonough, former KWCH Wichita (Kan.) sales chief, took over market-leading KYTV from the retiring Mike Scott. In June, Fox made a blockbuster announcement: The network parted ways with Nexstar-owned affiliate KSFX and partnered with Koplar Communications’ KRBK, which agreed to air both Fox and MyNetworkTV programming as of Sept. 1.

Making things more complicated, KRBK on Aug. 17 brought in new general manager Paul Windisch, who has loads of radio experience but is a newbie to TV. “I dove in head first,” Windisch says.

Windisch worked with Fox to get word of the affiliation deal out via outdoor, radio, bus wraps, even gas-pump TVs. KRBK and Fox caught a break when the World Series—featuring the St. Louis Cardinals—went to seven games. “This is huge Cardinal country,” says Windisch. “People had to find us.”

Newly independent KSFX rebranded itself as “Ozarks Local” KOZL—more than doubling its local news output and running the syndicated My Name Is Earl and Everybody Loves Raymond from 8-9 p.m. Mark Gordon, KOZL VP/GM, says ad rates are 50-75% less than what they were when the station had Fox’s American Idol and NFL games. But with expanded inventory, KOZL is holding up fine. “It’s actually been kind of refreshing and fun,” Gordon says. “It’s great to have the sales team intact and the support of our company. I feel very good about where we’re at.”

KOZL manages Mission Broadcasting’s KOLR, a CBS affiliate. Schurz’s NBC affiliate, KYTV, manages Perkins Media’s ABC outlet, KSPR.

Amidst the changes, KYTV continues to thrive. “It’s been a positive for us,” says McDonough. “We are fortunate to be seen as a strong, stable force in the market.”

KYTV last fall inked an audience measurement deal with Rentrak. Unlike other stations that sign with Rentrak, KYTV cut its ties with Nielsen. The general managers of the Big Four stations in Springfield say Rentrak, not Nielsen, is now the ratings currency in the market.

Schurz airs CW affiliate K15CZ, which last August launched newscasts at 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. Mediacom is the main subscription TV operator, but the satellite outfits have a large presence.

Springfield slipped from DMA No. 74 to 75 this year, but GMs say the market is holding up well. Hospitals and academics, including Missouri State U., provide a stable economy. The region’s unemployment rate is an enviable 7.4%.

Missouri has traditionally been a swing state, but no one is sure if it will receive a political advertising windfall this time around. “We potentially might see some presidential money,” says McDonough. “We didn’t think we would as late as the fourth quarter [of 2011].”

KYTV dubs itself “The Place to Be,” and the numbers bear it out. The NBC affiliate won the major news ratings races in last November’s sweeps, while KOLR won primetime. Rentrak’s StationView Essentials showed a 15.4 rating/ 24.5 share for KYTV at 10 p.m., ahead of KOLR’s 7.9/12.5. “KY3 has been the heritage brand for the last 50 years,” says McDonough.

KOZL seems to be enjoying its new life as an independent. The station is developing some local shows, including a business program, and has sports half hours on both weekend nights. Gordon says 2012 revenue should be “in the ’hood” of where it was as a Fox affiliate.

Meanwhile, KRBK and its new GM are finding their footing too. “It’s the first major change in television in this market in the last two decades,” Windisch says of the affiliation switch. “It shook up the market.”

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