New Leader in New Mexico

Changes in ownership are shaking up the broadcast scene in Albuquerque, N.M. LIN TV acquired CBS affiliate KRQE from Emmis Communications in December as part of a five-station, $260 million deal. Now, Raycom Media is selling Fox affiliate KASA as the company sheds several of its stations.

Both KRQE and KASA are jockeying for ratings with NBC affiliate KOB and ABC outlet KOAT. KOB was the longtime leader, but, in the past 18 months, the balance has shifted. After years as a middling station, KRQE won late news in November sweeps, capping off a five-year overhaul. The station replaced its key anchors and stocked up on top syndication, including Dr. Phil, Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!. KRQE also bested KOB with its noon and 4 p.m. news.

KRQE General Manager Bill Anderson says that, with the newscasts thriving and syndication locked up, his station must stay consistent. “Most third-placed stations do not get a crack at getting out of the weeds,” he says. “We try to make well-thought-out decisions with our news and programming and stick with them for a long time.”

KRQE's rivals aren't lying down. In November, the station won late news with an 8.8 rating/17 share, but KOB recorded an 8.5/16 and KOAT an 8.1/16. After two weeks of February sweeps, station managers report that the race was just as tight. KOB nabbed the No. 1 late news in February and July 2005 sweeps and wins early morning handily. KOAT boasts the top early-evening news and runs syndication powerhouse The Oprah Winfrey Show. KASA's 9 p.m. news, the only one in the market, scores strong marks—as high as a 5 rating—and is contemplating adding an early-morning newscast.

ACME-owned KWBQ and KASY, losing their affiliations in September, are considering deals with The CW and Fox TV's new My Network TV. The stations have top off-net fare including Seinfeld, Everybody Loves Raymond and Friends. “Having two stations puts us in a strong position,” says General Manager John Greenwood.

Nielsen's 46th-largest market is 39% Hispanic. Univision outlet KLUZ offers local news, and Azteca America affiliate KQDF will launch two daily newscasts later this year. The market encompasses almost all New Mexico and a slice of southern Colorado. To cover the region, KRQE employs a satellite truck and helicopter and staffs a news team in Roswell. KOB extends its reach with three satellite stations and a helicopter.

KOAT has news staffers in six cities and uses a helicopter and satellite truck. Says General Manager Mary Lynn Roper, “This allows us to get to the big stories and also be in the communities to hear about other news and heartwarming stories.”