MARKET EYE: HOUSTON
RECENT NEWS STORIES: Houston hosts the NCAA men’s Final Four basketball championship this weekend, the COPA America Centenario soccer championships in June and next year’s Super Bowl; major floods last May; falling price of oil; close mayoral election in 2015.
LOWDOWN: Houston was an early adapter to Rentrak, now comScore, with a handful of local stations signing up for the services. It is becoming the major transactional currency, says Henry Florsheim, KTRK president/GM, citing Nielsen’s small sample sizes and constant fluctuations. “If you have the opportunity to be measured by 10% of a 900-person panel, or Rentrak has half a million homes, what do you think is going to give you a more consistent, reliable number?” Florsheim asks. “Rentrak returns are not going to be influenced by whether or not three or four families go away on spring break. Nielsen is sort of trapped in an old methodology. There are new tools around, and the market is migrating to them.”
STATIONS(OWNER/AFFILIATION): KPRC (Graham Media Group/NBC), KTRK (ABC/ABC), KHOU (Tegna/CBS), KRIV (Fox/Fox)
(GRAHAM MEDIA GROUP/NBC)
WHAT’S NEW: KPRC transitioned to a new content management system last December. Last month, it launched an app called “Everything But the Game,” offering info on events leading up to Super Bowl LI next Feb. 5 (and, to a lesser extent, Final Four weekend).
WHO THEY ARE: Nearly every 10 p.m. newscast features a unique investigative piece from KPRC’s 12-person unit. One recent report on people ditching cars in the bayous helped push the city to pull them out. Jerry Martin, VP/GM, says the station might have six live reports in the A block of its 10 p.m. newscast. KPRC is sending more than a dozen reporters to Rio for the Summer Olympics. “If news happens, no matter where, we will travel to get the story,” Martin says.
INSIGHTS FROM THE FRONT LINES: “We are the long-term news leader in this market, the most trusted source of news. We spent decades building that reputation. We have a stability that possibly works to our advantage. We have some extremely tenured news anchors and have a really good mix of people from all kinds of experiences and backgrounds,” says Henry Florsheim, president/GM.
WHAT’S NEW: The ABC-owned station debuted a new set in September.
DID YOU KNOW? KTRK’s coverage of January’s Houston Marathon extended regionally through the Longhorn Network and to the world via ESPN3. The station had a reporter and photographer covering the race live while cycling over 100 miles away from Houston. Florsheim attributes the increased coverage to a “combination of changes in technology to both gather material more easily and less expensively and distribute to other partners.”
WHAT’S NEW: KHOU brought in a new executive news director, Sally Ramirez. The station will have a mocked-up news set for live shots at the Final Four Fan Fest at the convention center.
WHO THEY ARE: KHOU considers itself a digital-first newsroom. “We’re publishing 24/7,” says Susan McEldoon, president/GM. “We have to push it out to whatever platform is going to reach the most people at that given time.”
DID YOU KNOW? KHOU started an investigation early last year into what was being done to fix the numerous potholes throughout Houston. The investigation team uncovered that the city had been misleading the public in a series of reports that spurred 16 members of the city council to sign a pothole pylon commitment to fix the problem. When KHOU doubled back 10 months later and found that few potholes had been repaired, it became an issue in the mayoral race and a campaign platform of the new mayor.
WHAT’S NEW: KRIV relaunched popular reporter Isiah Carey’s weekly show, The Isiah Factor Uncensored, as an hour on Fridays at 9 p.m. in February and debuted half-hour discussion panel show What’s Your Point on Thursdays at 5:30 p.m. in January.
WHAT’S ON:30 Minutes ’til Air, a daily half-hour livestream at 4:30 p.m., is unscripted, filmed with a handheld camera and features a different staffer as the host moving around the newsroom to ask colleagues what they are working on for the 5 p.m. newscast.
DID YOU KNOW? With next February’s Super Bowl to be carried by Fox, network O&O KRIV will broadcast live from studio space leading up to the game. VP/GM D’Artagnan Bebel is on the host committee, which oraganizes Super Bowl-related events.
KPRC IS PAVING THE WAY for a paradise, and putting up a parking lot. The Graham Media Group station is building a new headquarters behind its current facility and will turn the current building into a parking lot. The new facility should be completed in the first quarter of 2017, says Jerry Martin, VP and general manager.
The new station will be IP-centric with an open-office concept, including a flexible work space and a central hall for people to take their laptops or iPads and work from. In addition to two studios—one for news, the other more for production work—the facility will also have multiple places to shoot throughout the premises, including different spots within the newsroom. While staffers in the current building are isolated in various units, everyone will be in accessible areas of the new building.
“People work differently now than 20 or 30 years ago,” Martin says. “We’re making it a modern TV station, built for the 21st century of TV.”
They are moving dirt in the backyard right now, with the structure set to be up by midsummer and completely enclosed by Sept. 1 for the interior work.
“It’s a big investment,” Martin says. “Graham Media continues to give me resources to compete in this market.”
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