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Walking Tall

San Antonio may not see much presidential money—the Republicans appear to have Texas sewn up—but station managers say advertising should hold because the local economy is staying strong.

While the robust automotive spending here that had been defying the national trend has waned, it has paved the way for new marketers that may be trying television for the first time. “Automotive cutbacks have opened the door for new and different kinds of advertisers,” says KSAT Director of Creative Services David Cuccio. “They're running spots to test their different products.”

The No. 37 Nielsen DMA ranks No. 27 in terms of revenue, says BIA Financial, and a strong batch of stations is clamoring for the cash. Local television took in $200.9 million last year, per BIA, with Post Newsweek's ABC affiliate KSAT leading with $53.6 million, ahead of Belo's CBS outlet KENS ($44.9 million), Sinclair's Fox affiliate KABB ($30.8 million) and High Plains Broadcasting's NBC outlet WOAI ($27 million). Newport Television bought WOAI in the whopper Clear Channel deal and flipped the station due to an ownership conflict.

Corridor owns CW affiliate KCWX, Sinclair has the MyNetworkTV outlet KMYS, and Univision has the strong O&O KWEX. Time Warner is the dominant cable player, and Dallas-based AT&T is making local inroads with its U-Verse TV offering.

The market is home to insurance giant USAA; a cluster of military bases, including Fort Sam Houston and Lackland Air Force Base; and a growing medical community—perhaps a factor in Grey's Anatomy being the top-ranked primetime show in May. Tourists are drawn to the River Walk, the famed Alamo and the city's lively El Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festival in November.

KSAT and KENS are extraordinarily competitive. KSAT barely beat KENS in primetime household ratings in May, and the two were virtually deadlocked in late news—KSAT's 10.7 rating/15.7 share edging KENS by a tenth of a point in both categories. KSAT wins evenings with breathing room, while KENS wins mornings. WOAI comes in third in most major races.

KENS prides itself on a well-entrenched anchor crew and hard-hitting local news. “It's fast-paced, with a high story count,” says KENS President/General Manager Bob McGann. “We work pretty hard on that.”

KCWX, managed by Belo, is also an active news outlet; Executive News Director Kurt Davis says the station offers the most news in the market and is boosting its investigative department. “We're always looking for opportunities to bring local news to the marketplace,” he says.

KSAT will raise its game with high-definition local news in the coming weeks (KENS launched it June 30). It's also using its digital channels to expand the station's reach; Cuccio says the entertainment channel LATV has brought in a young demo and Hispanic advertisers, and KSAT will launch the movie/vintage program channel .2 next year.

Station executives say San Antonio has not seen major drops in real estate values, helping the local economy grow—even if it's slow growth. While few are celebrating high gas prices, limiting those pricey auto excursions might be good for TV viewing. “More people are staying home,” Cuccio says, “instead of going out and spending money on gas.”


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.