Star of the Lone Star State

With summer coming to a close and the temperature slipping back to the double digits, San Antonio stations are poised to launch new programs. KENS kicked off a 4 p.m. newscast Aug. 2, while WOAI debuts a 6:30 p.m. show Sept. 6. Yet leader KSAT is mostly sticking to its guns, outside of slotting Nate Berkus in place of Rachael Ray, which goes to WOAI at 9 a.m. “There’s very little change here this year,” concedes VP/General Manager Jim Joslyn.

There apparently doesn’t need to be. Consistency is a hallmark at KSAT, an ABC affiliate owned by Post- Newsweek. Joslyn has around 18 years at the station, and News Director Jim Boyle has logged 26. Joslyn says KSAT thrives by intently listening to viewers, whether it’s via e-mailed comments or at community events, such as station-hosted town halls. “The idea of getting into the community to talk to viewers is a big part of our success,” Joslyn says. “We know what they look like, and how they think.”

The numbers prove Joslyn’s point. KSAT swept the major races in May, with the top morning, early evening and late news ratings, along with the primetime and total day races. KSAT posted a 10.4 household rating/16 share at 10 p.m.—topping CBS affiliate KENS’ 7.9 rating/12 share. (Belo’s KENS did win the 5 a.m. news contest.) KSAT also won a close 2009 revenue race, its $37.9 million topping KENS’ $35.2 million, according to BIA/ Kelsey. Other players in San Antonio’s broadcast universe include Sinclair’s Fox-MyNetworkTV duopoly KABB and KMYS, Newport TV/High Plains Broadcasting’s NBC affiliate WOAI and Corridor TV’s CW affiliate KCWX.

San Antonio is also the nation’s eighth-largest Hispanic market; 53.5% of the population is of Hispanic origin, says BIA/Kelsey. Spanish-language options are vast; they include Univision’s KWEX, Telemundo’s KVDA and Una Vez Mas’ Azteca America outlet KVDF; KSAT airs LATV on its digital channel. KWEX’s Noticias 41 crew delivers strong ratings in evening and late news. Univision also owns the TeleFutura outlet KNIC and six local radio stations.

San Antonio’s major pay-TV operators are Time Warner Cable and AT&T’s U-verse service.

While it holds the No. 37 DMA rank, San Antonio is the No. 24 revenue market, reports BIA. Major employers include insurance outfit USAA, the military (Fort Sam Houston, Lackland Air Force Base and Randolph Air Force Base are among the local installations), and Toyota. The latter recently started production of its Tacoma truck out of San Antonio, which added around a thousand jobs to the market. San Antonio has manufactured Toyota’s full-size Tundra truck for several years.

“San Antonio has fared better than most cities,” says KENS Executive News Director Kurt Davis. “There’s a lot of construction going on—San Antonio is growing.”

Tourists choose San Antonio for a less expensive vacation option and attractions such as the River Walk and the historic Alamo. The diversity of the local economy, and the stable job sources, keep the area insulated from prolonged economic slumps. “I wouldn’t say the economy is great, but it is good,” Joslyn says. “The market has not been as vibrant, but it’s in awful good shape.”

The growth includes local TV. KENS has bumped Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? from the 4 p.m. slot for the fledgling newscast, which Davis says has an even higher story count than the newsroom’s usual rapid-fire output. “We’re starting to see significant growth in household ratings,” he points out. “It’s a high-energy newscast with lots of local stuff. It’s what’s happening right now.”

WOAI’s 6:30 news will stick with the station’s advocacy brand—callers to the station are greeted with WOAI’s “Dedicated. Determined. Dependable.” tagline—and feature a fast pace as well. “What sets us apart is the advocacy role we take in the market,” says VP/General Manager Jackie Rutledge, mentioning one recent investigative series that prompted San Antonio’s public bus system to outlaw text messaging among drivers.

Fox affiliate KABB, meanwhile, offers four hours of news in the morning, along with an hour at 9 p.m. The station provides news on the go with new iPhone and Droid apps.

Much like the general managers at most Oprah Winfrey stations, Joslyn is mum on what KSAT will do when Oprah departs broadcast TV next year. “We don’t know yet,” he says. “We’re looking at four or five different things.”

Crime is a big issue in San Antonio, and the newsrooms make an effort to keep it from dominating the news rundown. “It’s an excellent news town,” Davis says. “Unfortunately, the crime stories get a lot of attention, but there’s always something going on in San Antonio.”

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Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.