KTVT, KTXA score with Mavericks and more

Apr 29, 2002  •  Post A Comment

While some stations in the country claim locally produced shows are too costly and sports programming is not as lucrative as it once was, the Viacom-owned duopoly stations in Dallas are finding quite the opposite is true.
CBS-owned KTVT-TV and UPN affiliate KTXA-TV both began carrying Dallas Mavericks basketball games last fall as part of a five-year deal that will see 25 games on KTXA and five on KTVT. The result: a 61 percent rise in ratings from last year, when the games were carried by KSTR-TV.
At the same time, KTXA launched “The Mark Cuban Show” featuring Mr. Cuban, the controversial Mavericks owner, in a half-hour that has the look and feel of MTV. “The Mark Cuban Show” is the first show produced since the duopoly was formed in October 2000. The stations merged into one facility in August 2001.
“The Mark Cuban Show” debuted Nov. 3 on KTXA in a 10 p.m. Saturday slot. After the football season ended, a second run of the show began airing at 11 p.m. Sundays on KTVT, following that station’s own half-hour sports show “The Score.”
Mr. Cuban, who has been fined by the NBA for criticizing the organization, is also seen on other CBS stations around the country because the show is carried by the CBS Newspath affiliate distribution system.
Whether it’s because of the Mavericks’ success or its controversial owner, “The Mark Cuban Show” has been steadily increasing in its Nielsen Media Research ratings from a 0.9 in its first show, to a 2.1 in one of its most recent shows.
Although KTXA produces the show, inventory is split with the Mavericks. It is shot at the hip Cuban restaurant Cuba Libre, which is a major sponsor of the show. Shooting at a sponsor location is part of the duopoly’s strategy to get advertisers more involved.
“We obviously talked about a traditional basketball carriage deal, but because of Mark Cuban’s personality and all the different businesses he’s been involved with, it made sense to have a show featuring him,” said KTVT and KTXA General Manager Brian Jones. “One of the stated missions when we made the deal to carry the Mavericks and have `The Mark Cuban Show’ is it’s not going to be a boring sports show. It would reflect Mark’s personality, and it had to have an edge and be outside of the box. So the first thing we decided was that we would not do it in a studio setting.”
‘The show has also helped turn Mr. Cuban into a local celebrity, with viewers bringing him gifts, such as a specially made footlocker in Mavericks colors that Mr. Cuban thought was “amazing,” in addition to food, clothing, paintings and other presents. “I can’t figure it out, but it’s fun,” Mr. Cuban said. “I have never done anything like this before. I’m not very good at it yet, but I’m getting better.”
Mr. Cuban also has the ability to draw other celebrities, such as Tommy Lee, Tom Arnold and other luminaries visiting Dallas. “As bad as I think I am, people seem to like the show, and I get tons of positive responses, and people show up for the filming,” he said. “It’s promotional, I try to be supportive with advertisers and make it easy to sell, and Brian does a great job of making it easy for me to do my job. He makes my life very easy.”
Every Mavericks game is preceded by a locally produced show hosted by KTVT weekend sports anchor Brian Custer and former Dallas Mavericks player Derek Harper. The pre-game shows were produced in the studio, though the last three aired from a sponsoring local Mexican restaurant.
And this year for the first time, KTVT sports anchor Babe Laufenberg produced two March Madness shows, also broadcast from local restaurants that were sponsors.
“Now instead of just having a game, we have a pre-game show, we have a game and “The Mark Cuban Show,” plus all of our news coverage,” Mr. Jones said. “It increases our revenue, but it also gives people programming they like to see. It’s very good business. The fact that we were able to involve sponsors helped us with our business goals.”
KTXA began producing two other local sports show in the fall, “Extreme Motion” anchored by Rance Adams, an extreme sports enthusiast whose day job is in the station’s production department. That show airs Saturday mornings and has featured skate boarders, local rock bands and championship snowboard coverage. Sponsors have included a local skateboard park, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, a paint ball park and sporting goods stores. “That show was designed out of the need to grow revenue but also to again build the image of the UPN station, which didn’t have a local identity,” Mr. Jones said. “The station was more or less a jukebox for syndicated programs. It’s key to our success, both from a revenue standpoint and an image standpoint.”
KTXA also launched “High School Edge,” which Mr. Jones described as the market’s only live high school highlights show, on Fridays at 11:30 p.m. It repeats on Saturday mornings in a block with “Extreme Motion.”
This month, KTXA began airing the new Arena Football League games, which KTVT will cover in its sportscasts.
While KTXA is building its image with local sports programming, KTVT has been slowly growing its news ratings numbers in the wake of hiring former WFAA-TV veteran anchor Tracy Rowlett. Mr. Rowlett came to KTVT in February 2000 and since then the ratings for the 6 p.m. newscast and particularly the 10 p.m. show, with the help of strong network programming, have slowly increased. The 10 p.m. newscast scored a 4.2 Nielsen Media Research rating in November 1998, before Mr. Rowlett arrived. By November 2001 it averaged a 7.3.