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Oklahoma City Covers Twisters Creatively

The Oklahoma City TV race is as wide open as the local terrain. KOCO and KWTV split the total day household and primetime crowns in November. After ironing out a ratings glitch with Nielsen, KFOR grabbed the morning and evening news title, while KWTV took late honors with a 14 household rating/22 share.

Such competition pushes the stations to extend their reach. Local TV's NBC affiliate KFOR and Griffin's CBS outlet KWTV are partnering on the local business directory Sinclair's Fox affiliate KOKH was airing Sinclair's News Central when John Rossi came on board less than four years ago, but the station is ramping up local news; its morning program has grown noticeably since launching two years ago. “News has been a constant work in progress,” Rossi says.

Hearst-Argyle's ABC outlet KOCO, meanwhile, has a revamped online weather section with some 20 interactive channels, including live radar and hourly forecasts. “In some ways, it's like being your own weatherman,” says KOCO President/General Manager Brent Hensley.

Tornado season is underway in the No. 45 DMA. The local economy, however, has been considerably less stormy. The major sources of employment are oil, defense and agriculture, and relative stability in those fields has kept Oklahoma City somewhat insulated. “The economy seems to be good, compared to the rest of the country,” Rossi says.

The market boasts a pair of duopolies. Besides KFOR, Local owns MyNetworkTV outlet KAUT. In addition to its Fox station, Sinclair has CW affiliate KOCB. The Spanish-language players, which are small but growing, are Telemundo affiliate KTUZ and Univision affiliate KUOK.

Stations scramble to cover all corners of the DMA. KFOR transmits tornado warnings to viewers via automated text messaging and phone calls. After a promising start to INeedThis, KFOR President/General Manager Jim Boyer says KFOR and KWTV will see how else they can share resources, such as video. KWTV did not return calls; Griffin announced last week that KWTV general manager Rob Krier is moving up to corporate COO.

KOCO has focused on the economic maelstrom's local angles. Hearst-Argyle launched the Project Economy campaign earlier in the year across the group; all stations air local economy news and host job fairs under that rubric. Hensley says KOCO's March 6 fair was a big success, with more than 100 vendors and 3,000 hopefuls. “It was a lot of fun, and I think it was meaningful to the market,” he says.

While revenue is down, Oklahoma City execs are optimistic the market will rebound healthily. As Boyer puts it: “The good part is, when we budget for 2010, we're looking at pretty easy numbers to beat.”

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Michael Malone
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.