Spreading Like Wildfire

Local television is booming in the Oklahoma capital. In the November sweeps, Oklahoma City stations boasted two of the three highest-rated late newscasts in Nielsen’s 56 metered markets. NBC affiliate KFOR led the pack with a standout 17.2 rating/26 share, and CBS outlet KWTV was No. 3 with a 16/24. Even the market’s third-rated station in late news, ABC affiliate KOCO, was a national standout at No. 64, averaging an 8.8/12.

Severe weather drives demand for local news. “Whether it is tornadoes or wildfires, the news can be a matter of life and death here,” says KFOR General Manager Tim Morrissey. “Viewers are conditioned to turn to TV.”

The competition is intense as any wildfire. KFOR won late news in November, but KWTV was No. 1 in the three previous ratings periods. KOCO, which runs Dr. Phil and The Oprah Winfrey Show, wins 5 p.m. news, but KFOR prevails at 6 p.m. and airs the market’s only local 6:30 p.m. newscast. Fox affiliate KOKH earns solid ratings with the sole 9 p.m. news. “The level of product here is superior to markets 20 and 30 sizes larger,” says KOCO General Manager Brent Hensley, whose station was the top-rated ABC affiliate in the 50 largest markets in November.

Oklahoma City ranks as Nielsen’s No. 45 market but is four spots higher in revenue rank, according to BIA Financial. Broadcasters grossed $123.2 million in 2004, up from $107.5 million in 2003, per BIA. Advertising is getting a boost from the state’s new lottery and from casinos. Political spending should heat up this year, and the economy is bolstered by energy demands, with oil companies adding workers.

Stations are making moves. KWTV works closely with its Griffin Communications’ sister station in Tulsa, KOTV, and KWTV’s news repeats on a digital cable channel co-owned with Cox, News Now 53. “Anytime there is a statewide story, we have it covered completely,” says General Manager Rob Krier.

KFOR is adding new syndicated shows with Rachael Ray and Megan Mullally next fall. KOCO just renewed The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Fox affiliate KOKH and sister WB outlet KOCB—both top performers for their networks—are picking up new shows like The Greg Behrendt Show and, for KOKH’s court block, Cristina’s Court and Judge Maria Lopez. “We have some of the strongest daytime numbers on any Fox affiliate,” says General Manager John Rossi.

But news remains a top priority. “The appetite here is voracious,” says KOCO’s Hensley. “Oklahomans want to know the news, and we all have to deliver.”

Next: Buffalo, N.Y.