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Market Eye: Springs to Attention

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The population is booming in Colorado Springs, and the TV stations there are expanding to meet the mounting needs of viewers. Outgrowing its Colorado Springs base, KOAA has secured a new 25,000-square-foot facility, which will work in step with its sister facility in Pueblo, around 40 miles away, when it’s completed next year. KKTV is building a 10,000-square-foot operation that Nick Matesi, vice president and general manager, says will be “one of the most technologically advanced facilities in the country.”

KRDO is reworking its shop to house master control for the whole of the growing News-Press & Gazette (NPG) group. KXRM-KXTU, meanwhile, is adding 7,000 square feet to accommodate going from 35 staffers a few years back to around 70. “In the last ve years, we’ve gone from someone else producing a half-hour of news for us, to us producing 5½ hours a day,” says Steve Dant, president and CEO of the Fox-CW duopoly. “We’ve become very much a news player in the marketplace.”

While scores of markets feature two or even three stations within snif ng distance of the lead, Colorado Springs-Pueblo has four legit news players; all four posted at least 21% of the market’s revenue in 2011, according to BIA/Kelsey. All appear to be getting strong backing from corporate. “Four stations put it out every day,” says Matesi. “I tell our people they’ve got to be relentlessly consistent. That’s how you win.”

Colorado Springs-Pueblo, home to the Air Force Academy, was DMA No. 92 as recently as 2010, and moved up to No. 89 in the most recent Nielsen rankings. Cordillera owns NBC af liate KOAA, whose $12 million in 2011 revenue, according to BIA/Kelsey, beat KXRM’s $10.9 million. Barrington has KXRM-KXTU (the CW is identified with “SOCO CW,” short for Southern Colorado, branding), and is adding MundoFox as a multicast. Gray Television holds CBS station KKTV, which has MyNetworkTV on its dot-two. KRDO’s news is simulcast on a sister NPG radio station; the station has a reporter at the Pueblo Chieftain newspaper to cover that side of the market.

Entravision’s KVSN is the market’s Univision affiliate, while KRDO airs Telemundo on its dot-two, with news updates on the hour. Comcast is the main subscription TV operator.

The local economy is stop-and-start, with unemployment higher than the national average. But Colorado is every bit a swing state. The presidential hopefuls not only have spent richly— KRDO general manager Tim Larson says the Obama camp spent a million dollars on KRDO alone, a few weeks before Election Day—but are familiar faces around the state. “There’s somebody in Colorado just about every day,” says Evan Pappas, KOAA president/ general manager.

It was a frightfully eventful summer for news. The Waldo Canyon wild re blazed in late June and well into July. The stations stayed on for as much as 130 hours straight, with numerous staffers evacuated from their homes. Two weeks later, the mass shooting occurred at the Aurora movie theater around 70 miles north of Colorado Springs. “I’ve been at this 30 years, and I’ve never seen a summer like that,” says KRDO’s Larson.

The disaster was a huge learning experience for the local newsrooms, both in terms of covering a giant story in the traditional manner, and using social media and newer technologies to get the word out. Matesi, who had a run as KKTV news director years ago, calls it a “defining moment” for the station and the market. “I’m absolutely convinced we saved lives,” says Matesi, who was named one of B&C’s 2012 Digital All-Stars for his team’s efforts. “A number of people came up to us and said, ‘Thank God for your text alerts.’”

As competitive as the market is, station execs say the local TV players worked side by side to provide timely and accurate information to viewers during both crises. The stations also joined forces to help organize and execute the Waldo Canyon Wild re Relief Fund, a concert and telethon that the local anchors emceed. “All the media came together,” says Pappas. “It wasn’t about who was winning—it was about helping the community.”

Colorado Springs-Pueblo is a diary market. KOAA owns the market leader mantle these days, despite a fourth-place nish in prime in the May sweeps. It won total-day household ratings, and morning, early evening and late news in May—the latter with a 7.7 household rating/21 share, ahead of KKTV’s 6.5/17. KKTV won prime. Pappas seeks to put some space between KOAA and the pack. “We’re trying to be more of a dominant station than just a No. 1 station,” he says.

With an “Accurate, Fast and Fair” tagline, KOAA thrives on strong journalism, says Pappas, and not fanciful marketing campaigns. State-of-the art facilities on both sides of the market will help too. “It’s pretty exciting,” says Pappas. “It’s our way of saying, we’re here to stay.”

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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.