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Slugging It Out

American Indian and Hispanic roots run deep in Tucson, Ariz., a stone's throw from the Mexican border and nestled among reservation lands. Tucson claims to be the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in North America, having been home to native peoples for more than 3,000 years.

It's a rather competitive television market. There is no such thing as local-news dominance here. In the May Nielsen sweeps, for example, the 5 p.m. local news broadcasts of NBC affiliate KVOA(TV), CBS affiliate KOLD-TV and ABC affiliate KGUN(TV) were locked in a virtual three-way tie.

Both Fox affiliate KMSB-TV and WB outlet KWBA(TV) joined the fray this year, launching 9 p.m. local newscasts. KMSB-TV shares newsroom resources with KVOA, while KWBA partners with KOLD-TV.

"About 30% of market revenue is news-driven, and that's a big pool of money," said Gene Steinberg, vice president, programming and creative services at KWBA. "Before we had news, we couldn't play in the deep end of that pool. Now we can."

Arizona's relatively large Native American population has a growing influence over advertising revenues for Tucson TV stations. "Indian gaming is certainly becoming a bigger category," said Diane Frisch, general manager at Belo's KMSB-TV and KTTU-TV (UPN), "and those are very important advertisers for us."

Overall, ad revenue will fall about 3% this year, according to BIA estimates. Still, Tucson gets more than its share of TV ad spending. Though the No. 74 DMA, the market ranks 64th in terms of ad revenue, attributable in part to the annual influx of snowbirds from colder climes and the huge economic influence of the University of Arizona.

Hispanic consumers hold substantial sway. Just over 32% of Tucson's population claims Hispanic origin. NBC owns Telemundo affiliate KHRR(TV). Univision owns three stations: low-powers KUVE(TV) and KTAZ(TV) and full-power KFTU-TV. Despite the Hispanic influence, though, Spanish-language programs don't attract large audiences. None has drawn higher than a 3 share in any sweeps period in the past three years.