The fair weather is around the corner in Portland. Perhaps the more pressing question is, will the economic climate improve in the coming months as well?
After several years of growth, station managers in the City of Roses say the economy has leveled off. They're seeing early political spending in advance of the Oregon primary May 20, and are hopeful that will hold off a recession. “Everyone's holding their breath, hoping we don't get hit too hard,” says KPTV/KPDX VP/General Manager Kieran Clarke.
KGW rules the news in Portland. The NBC affiliate won morning and evening news in February, and took 11 p.m., too, though Fox affiliate KPTV won the late news category with its 10 p.m. program. KGW President/General Manager DJ Wilson credits parent Belo's high standards and the station's experienced reporter corps. “Belo is journalistic with a capital J,” Wilson says. “And we've got very seasoned news management that knows the city like the back of their hand.”
While Portland lacks Fortune 500 companies, it's rich in tech startups; the market is known as Silicon Forest. Portland draws not only entrepreneurs, but young people lured by lively nightlife (microbrews, such as those served at McMenamins, are held in high esteem here), scenic views, and array of outdoor activities centered around the Cascades, Mount Hood and a pair of rivers. The market has gained 180,000 residents since 2001, and another 180,000 are expected to arrive by 2011. “One of the appealing things about Portland is its affordability and quality of life,” says KRCW VP/General Manager John Manzi. “It's the most affordable major city on the West Coast.”
That helps make up for the weather. Light rain falls for much of the year, and a pervasive gray blankets the region as well. But residents say that changes in June, and the summers are transcendental. “No humidity, no surprise rain, no bugs,” Clarke says.
Portland is the No. 23 Nielsen DMA, but ranks just 32nd in terms of revenue; the stations pulled in $178 million in 2007, per BIA Financial. Besides technology, the economic drivers include tourism, agriculture, timber and the sportswear giant Nike, in nearby Beaverton. Verizon has stepped up the marketing for its FiOS video service, causing incumbent cabler Comcast to do the same.
The stations are tweaking their game plans to get ahead. KGW will open a studio in downtown Pioneer Courthouse Square in the fall, which it will use for morning newscasts. Meredith's KPTV unveiled an hour news at 4 p.m. in late February. Fisher's ABC outlet KATU is emphasizing its On Your Side brand with a “clear and definite” focus in the news department, says VP/General Manager John Tamerlano, and moved the start time of its long-running 4:30 p.m. news to 4 last month (it's an hour now).
CBS affiliate KOIN, which New Vision bought from Montecito last year, has a new president/general manager in Chris Sehring. Leaving WKRC Cincinnati in September, Sehring has brought on a new news director and general sales manager to help restore the “legacy” of the station, he says. “We certainly have our work cut out for us,” Sehring says, “but we're ready to make a run for it.”
Cloudy forecasts notwithstanding, station managers say Portland's got mojo. As KGW's Wilson says: “It's a city where people live, work and play downtown.”
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