Twin Cities Stations Adjust To LPMs

The freshman politicians have long since taken their places in Washington, but Minnesota's fevered Senate race between Norm Coleman and Al Franken remains unresolved. The election brought healthy advertising to the Minneapolis-St. Paul stations in the fall, and now everyone's waiting to see if the courts feel a recount of the previous recount is in order. “I think this thing's going to drag on a long time,” says WUCW General Manager Joe Tracy.

Also causing friction are Nielsen's Local People Meters, which were officially launched in the Twin Cities in September. General managers describe the ratings shift with words like “dramatic” and “radical”—Fox and NBC seem to have benefited the most—but say things are inching closer to how they were in the diary days. “Every market sees great upheaval during the LPM transition,” says WCCO VP/General Manager Susan Adams Loyd. “But it's nice to see those numbers start to settle in.”

CBS-owned WCCO took primetimein November, along with total day (live-plus-3) household ratings and evening news. Gannett's NBC outlet KARE grabbed morning and late news. Minneapolis-St. Paul brought in $259.8 million last year, according to BIA Financial, with WCCO and KARE virtually tied in revenue. The No. 15 DMA also features the Fox-owned duopoly KMSP/WFTC and Hubbard's ABC affiliate KSTP.

General managers say the market, home to Best Buy and United Health Care, is holding up about as well as can be expected. Fast food and health care are filling in some of the lost automotive advertising. “We're a little bit better off than other markets,” says KSTP General Manager Rob Hubbard. “But it's tough everywhere.”

The stations are trying out some new things. KSTP launched the magazine show Twin Cities Live in late summer. KMSP has high school hockey and school-spirit contests on its microsite. WCCO has a new morning news team, reuniting former KSTP anchors Angela Davis and Mike Binkley last November.

Following a casting call for station host, CW affiliate WUCW, which does not air news, debuted the three-member “CW Crew” on Election Day. The trio began hosting a five-minute weekly entertainment segment called The CW Beat Feb. 26. “We'll walk before we run, but I could see it being expanded,” says Tracy, who helped oversee the Sinclair station's analog shutoff Feb. 17. “There are a lot of things you can build on if it has legs.”

WFTC, meanwhile, has 26 Twins games starting in April, and is seeing major growth with its syndicated comedies, such as Two and a Half Men and Family Guy. “Maybe it's just the mood of the country,” says KMSP/WFTC VP/General Manager Carol Ruppel. “People just want to sit back and laugh.”

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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, the L.A. Times and New York magazine.