Market Eye: Two 'Eyes' on Waco | @BCMikeMalone

Click here to read more Market Eye articles

KWTX has been a ratings and revenue monster for years in Waco-Temple-Bryan, Texas, but a major change is afoot. Bob Bunch, longtime general manager of the CBS affiliate, will retire at the end of the year. Luckily, his successor knows the KWTX operation well; Mike Wright has been general manager of satellite station KBTX for the past decade.

The stations—both CBS affiliates—are owned by Gray Television. KWTX is licensed to Waco, while KBTX is in Bryan, about 90 miles to the southeast. Wright will relocate to Waco to oversee the CBS pair in DMA No. 88. He hopes to bring the “attitude and spirit” of the scrappy KBTX team to Waco. “I’ve got to really drill down into the organization and see what we’ve got,” he says.

Stations are working to chip away at KWTX’s lead. ABC affiliate KXXV extended its 6 p.m. news to an hour in April and added weekend news slots before and after Good Morning America. Mike Lee, VP and general manager, says the station has the “freshest, most state-of-the-art look in the market” following an HD build-out two years ago.

NBC affiliate KCEN debuted a 7-8 a.m. newscast on its dot-two on Oct. 7. The “MYTX” subchannel also welcomed some lively talkers from Dallas, to go with Cozi TV and high school football.

London Broadcasting owns KCEN. Drewry Communications has KXXV and Nexstar owns a pair of Fox affiliates in KWKT and KYLE, which it picked up in its Communications Corp. of America acquisition earlier this year. Time Warner Cable is the market’s primary subscription TV operator.

Lagging Revenue, But Lots of Cheering

Waco is situated between Dallas and Austin. The market was a dismal No. 102 in revenue in 2012, reports BIA/Kelsey, but station general managers sing a happier tune. It is home to the massive military base Fort Hood as well as Texas A&M and Baylor University. The latter is building a football stadium for next fall; one GM calls it a “castle on the hill.”

The DMA features a growing health care industry, and the auto and furniture categories are spending big. “Several new furniture franchises have moved into the market, and they all like TV,” Lee enthuses.

KWTX won total-day household ratings in the May sweeps, along with mornings— with KXXV not far off in that race. KWTX won primetime and early evening news, and its 7.4 rating/18.3 share led at 10 p.m. So established is Gray TV—and CBS’ primetime— that KBTX was runner-up in late news with a 4.5/11.

KWTX booked $10.3 million in revenue in 2012, estimates BIA/Kelsey, while KCEN and KBTX were both around $7.7 million. A stronger primetime, driven by The Voice, has Gayle Kiger, KCEN VP/GM, optimistic. “Our news lead-in is better than it’s been in a long, long time,” he says.

Central Texas gets its share of major news events, including tornadoes. The trial of Nidal Hasan—convicted for the 2009 mass shootings at Fort Hood—concluded in August. “It’s an extremely active news market,” Lee says. “There’s always something going on, much of it national news.”

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.