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Sea of Change

San Diego is best-known for sun and surf, but the local TV scene is shifting faster than the tide. Since November sweeps, three well-known anchors have found new TV homes. Market vet Michael Tuck, main anchor at CBS affiliate KFMB, defected to independent KUSI to host a new 11 p.m. newscast. KUSI also hired Leonard Villareal, a 27-year vet of ABC affiliate KGTV, for weekends. And Stuart Miller, who left KUSI to be a minister, was lured back to TV by KFMB for its 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. news.

The shuffling has only heightened anticipation for February-sweeps results. While Midwest Television-owned KFMB and McKinnon Broadcasting's KUSI have made changes, their rivals remain intact. McGraw-Hill–owned ABC affiliate KGTV, bolstered by The Oprah Winfrey Show at 4 p.m., is typically the early-evening news leader. At 11 p.m., NBC O&O KNSD is the dominant force.

In February, KGTV held on to its early-evening lead, although KFMB and KNSD are tight competitors. Once again, KNSD was on track to win late news with a 7.8 rating/18 share, extending an eight-year winning streak. Consistency is key, says station President/GM Phyllis Schwartz. “Our team has been together for many years.” KUSI's new 11 p.m. news came out with a respectable 2.3/5. Even without Tuck, KFMB ranked second with a 5.8/13, boosted by CBS' strong prime time. The market is bracing for another programming shakeup in 2006. This summer, KFMB will add the powerhouse syndication combo of Oprah and Dr. Phil to its afternoon lineup, which could push its early news out in front.

KNSD is also planning a daytime maneuver. Following a growing trend in local TV, the station is taking charge of its 10 a.m. hour. Come June, it will expand its 10 a.m. newscast on Fridays with Streetside Studio With Kimberly King, a half-hour of lighter fare. The show will feature fashion, local bands and cultural stories. KGTV and Cox Cable, the area's largest operator, collaborate on News Channel 15, a regional news network. Time Warner also carries the network. Says Derek Dalton, VP/GM for KGTV, “This gives them an opportunity to watch our news on their schedule.”

While San Diego ranks as Nielsen's 26th-largest TV market, it is listed as the 16th-largest in TV revenues. The stations in the market are projected to take in $322.7 million in gross revenue this year, up from $314.8 million in 2004. Also rising are new industries, such as biomedical and research, in this increasingly sophisticated city. Says Schwartz, “This isn't just a tourist and Navy town any more.” Next: Indianapolis