Tulsa’s New Energy

Local roots are a big deal in Tulsa. Griffin Communications’ Oklahoma base has been key to the success of KOTV in the market, says Rob Krier, VP/COO of Griffi n. The CBS affiliate had a monster sweeps last May— which is pretty typical for KOTV. “I think it means a lot to the market that we are locally owned,” says Krier. “Local people want you to succeed.”

Yet the competition senses opportunity. Griffin dismissed general manager Regina Moon last year, with Krier now managing KOTV as he splits time between corporate headquarters in Oklahoma City and KOTV’s Tulsa base. Krier says station personnel’s deep experience has eased the transition. “It’s the world we live in,” he says of the shake-up. “There’s consistency with our directors—they know what to do.”

The more interesting race is for No. 2 in Tulsa, DMA No. 61. KOTV won all the major ratings derbies in May, but Allbritton’s ABC outlet KTUL and Scripps’ NBC affiliate KJRH were within a point of the leader in total-day household ratings. KTUL’s 8 rating/ 11 share in late news trailed KOTV’s 12 rating/19 share.

Newport Television’s KOKI, a Fox outlet, has stuck itself in the middle of the late news race too. In January, KOKI added a 10 p.m. newscast to follow its 9 p.m. news, and VP/General Manager Holly Allen says it’s fi nding an audience fast. “It’s very fun, fastpaced, with a high story count,” she says.

News Director Todd Spessard says KOKI was intent on trying something fresh at that hour. Fox23 News at 10 offers a full weather report in the first 10 minutes, and a unique presentation. “We call it a single-anchor newscast with two anchors,” he says, adding that the two are rarely in the same shot. “When we dove in at 10, we knew we had to do something different.”

That extra 30 minutes brings KOKI’s daily news output to 7½ hours, which, Allen notes, is a significant accomplishment for a station that did not produce news a decade ago.

Griffin also owns CW affiliate KQCW, and Newport claims MyNetworkTV affi liate KMYT. KQCW slots local news at 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. KMYT picks up KOKI’s 9 p.m. news on nights when Fox airs postseason baseball games. KJRH, which has a new general manager in Donna Wilson (Mike Vrabac left for Kansas City in June), offers weather on its .2 channel. LeSea owns religious independent KWHB, which features more than a dozen local shows, often featuring figures in Tulsa’s Christian community. “All the shows have a Christian base,” says General Manager Kevin Krebbs. KWHB also offers high school football on Fridays.

KOTV booked $23.8 million last year, according to BIA/Kelsey, while KOKI was runner-up at $14.4 million.

Weather is a huge driver in Tulsa. Krier says he’d been joking with visiting sales reps about the various tornados, floods and hailstorms the market knows all too well, and quipped that at least Tulsa is spared earthquakes. Alas, a moderate quake (ranging between 4.3 and 5.1 on the Richter scale) struck nearby Norman on Oct. 13 and was strong enough to be felt in Tulsa.

“It was like nothing I’ve ever felt in my life,” says Krier.

KOTV has local guy Travis Meyer, formerly of KTUL, as chief meteorologist, while KOKI brought over James Aydelott from KXAS Dallas. KOKI is playing up its Breaking Weather Alert initiative. KTUL chief meteorologist Frank Mitchell transmits severe weather warnings to local users’ phones, called Frank’s WeatherCall, for $6.95 a year. KJRH dives deep on weather with the “Tornado Alley” section of its Website, which offers tips for surviving twisters.

College football is as big a story as weather. Normanbased Oklahoma University and Stillwater’s Oklahoma State both got off to undefeated starts through Oct. 16. KTUL gets even more local with schoolboy action at 10:15 p.m. Fridays, called Touchdown Friday Night. Griffin acquired CoachesAid.com, offering scores, video and rankings.

General managers say the local economy is holding up pretty well. Oil is a giant industry in Tulsa—the city sports the tagline “A new kind of energy” these days—while American Airlines and Bank of Oklahoma (BOK) are significant employers. The BOK Center arena was completed last year and anchors an invigorated downtown. The BOK hosted TV stars Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall and Larry the Cable Guy Oct. 23, while Elton John, Cheech & Chong and purple dinosaur Barney are scheduled to visit in November.

Tulsa did not enjoy the same high times other markets did prior to the recession, and thus did not fall as hard last year. Political spending has been moderate, and TV revenue is up around 7% over last year, says Allen. “Most markets are up more, but they were down more last year,” she adds. “Things seem to be going really well.”

Despite the competition’s best efforts, it may be some time before anyone unseats KOTV for the Tulsa title. The station is preparing to move to a new downtown facility, a project that was held up by the recession. KOTV’s local roots help keep talent on both sides of the camera at the station, says Krier, while the competition serves as more of a stepping-stone.

“We’re not selling, we’re not going anywhere,” Krier says. “That means a lot in today’s world.”

E-mail comments to mmalone@nbmedia.com and follow him on Twitter: @StationBiz

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.