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Weather, Community Get Close-ups in Shreveport

Although it touches four states, the Shreveport, La., market (DMA No. 83) in the “Ark-La-Tex” region has historically been dominated by half as many stations: Raycom-owned KSLA and independent KTBS.

With its extensive weather coverage and support from Raycom, KSLA News 12 is the market leader. Boasting the straightforward slogan, “We track storms,” the CBS affiliate established “Severe Weather Alert Days” on all platforms to notify locals when meteorologists predict a thunderstorm, tornado or hurricane. The station also launched a free hurricane mobile app.

“People know when skies are getting dark and storms are threatening, they tune to our station and we’re there for them,” says James Smith, KSLA VP/GM. In May when there were several weeks of flooding on the Red River (which bisects Shreveport and Bossier City), KSLA went live and even interrupted regular programming when necessary.

The station takes full advantage of its Raycom resources. During the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, KSLA was able to send staff to Raycom stations in Baton Rouge for extended coverage. In addition, Raycom gained the rights this year to New Orleans Saints preseason NFL games previously held by Cox, which has no footprint in the Ark- La-Tex region. Smith was pleased with the results, both in viewership (he reports the first preseason game on Aug. 3 delivered an 18 household share) and ad sales, saying that it not only fed the appetite of Saints fans but was also “big for us and big for our clients.”

Family-owned ABC affiliate KTBS—which shares a studio with group mate KPXJ, the CW affiliate—produces seven hours of news content a day, says general manager George Sirven, with a community-minded approach on all platforms. Sirven asks his reporters to take one day of the week off from their beat to work on an enterprise or in-depth story that makes an impact on the community.

“We provide our viewers with information we know is of interest to them, not necessarily what’s easy,” Sirven says. “Our viewers see the difference and like what they see.”

The locally owned and operated station, which recently launched a new graphic software, put on the July 4th Independence Day Festival in downtown Shreveport. Nearly 70,000 people attended the seventh annual event, which had entertainers, fireworks and barbecue, with television coverage from 5 to 11 p.m. that day.

And in August was the 25th KTBS 3/St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway, a fundraiser that, with KTBS’ help, has raised tens of millions of dollars over the years for the children’s research hospital.

“We have found that if we see something that needs to be addressed immediately, we can turn on a dime and make it happen,” Sirven says. “We don’t have to go through an approval process. If we feel we can and should support something, we do.”

Traditionally, NBC affiliate KTAL has been a distant third place, but general manager Mark McKay says that is changing. On Jan. 1, a shared services agreement between Nexstar, which owns KTAL, and Marshall Broadcasting- owned KMSS went into effect. KTAL brought KMSS, the Fox affiliate, into its building and expanded its local news effort, adding two more hours daily. New news acquisition gear and editing equipment have helped KTAL’s ability to tell stories, McKay says.

Having inherited an existing JSA with KSHV through the KMSS deal, KTAL rebranded the MyNetworkTV affiliate to make it hyperlocal, broadcasting live high school football games and producing a radio sports call-in show.

“It’s a much closer horse race than it was before,” McKay says. “Our focus on local content, on news, is what’s driving that.”

The station also has a heavy presence in the northern part of the market. KTAL, licensed in Texarkana, Texas, is the only station with a full studio both there and in Shreveport, McKay says, which allows them to report live from a variety of locations.

“I think we all do a good job,” McKay says. “Local news is what separates us from all the other ways folks get news nowadays. They don’t do what the three stations here in Shreveport do.”