Stations Stay Hot In Cold Twin Cities

The Twin Cities TV market is a unique one, with all Big Four stations in the running for the title. CBS-owned WCCO is a power in Minnesota-St. Paul, and gets a stiff challenge from Tegna’s KARE, Fox’s KMSP and Hubbard’s KSTP. WCCO is the only downtown station, and Ann Ouellette, VP and general manager, said that gives it a certain vitality.

“It’s definitely one of our strengths,” she said. “We have excitement, energy and activity the others don’t have.”

Duopolies offer lots of news and local sports. Hubbard has ABC outlet KSTP and independent KSTC. Fox has KMSP and MyNetworkTV station WFTC, which it has rebranded as Fox 9 Plus. The Fox pair cranks out 63½ hours of news a week, including 7-8 p.m. on WFTC. KSTC started a noon news in the fall, and it and KSTP alternate news slots throughout the day, including a 7-9 a.m. program on KSTC.

“We do a lot of news here,” deadpanned Rob Hubbard, president and general manager of KSTP-KSTC.

On the sports front, Fox has a pair of NFL Vikings programs, St. Cloud State hockey and a University of Minnesota football show. The Golden Gophers did not lose until mid-November. The key to their success? “Because they have a show on our air,” quipped Sheila Oliver, vice president and general manager.

The Hubbard stations have high school football, basketball and hockey.

The Twin Cities stations are shaking things up to make their mark. KARE has revamped its morning news. Gia Vang, who is Hmong-American, anchors alongside Canadian Kris Laudien. “They’re jelling in the mornings, and getting some good traction,” John Remes, president and general manager, said.

WCCO will introduce its CBSN Minnesota streaming product in December. “We’re a strong over-the-top market,” Ouellette said. “I think there’s going to be a lot of opportunity for us.”

The station also has the Weather Watcher Network, with 1,700 amateur meteorology aficionados pitching in on weather.

KSTP has Sunday morning public affairs show At Issue.

On Thanksgiving, KMSP will air a prime special on farming called The Last Harvest. Multiple stations did their newscasts from the state fair in August. “You’re not a Minnesotan if you don’t go to the state fair,” explained Oliver.

In October, KSTP, WCCO and KMSP all averaged 40,000 households from 6-7 a.m., with KMSP edging out KARE in 25-54. WCCO won 5 and 6 p.m. news in households and 25-54, and 10 p.m. too. WCCO averaged 126,000 households at 10 p.m., ahead of KARE’s 80,000. WCCO did 36,000 in 25-54, while KARE had 32,000.

Sinclair Broadcast Group has The CW station WUCW. HC2 has Telemundo-aligned KJNK and Media Vista Group owns Univision affiliate WUMN. Comcast is the major pay TV operator.

General managers boast serious longevity in the Twin Cities. Remes took over KARE in 1996. Hubbard has been KSTP-KSTC GM “15-20 years, I’m not even sure,” he said.

The Twin Cities economy is going strong. Minnesota joins the Super Tuesday election madness in March. The market is home to numerous Fortune 500 corporations, including Target, United Healthcare and 3M.

“Athletes and CEOs come here kicking and screaming,” Remes said, “and end up staying their whole life.”

Michael Malone

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.