Stability Pays Off for KTVU

Aug 18, 2003  •  Post A Comment

KTVU-TV achieved its dominance as a Fox affiliate by applying a formula divergent from those of most Fox stations. Instead of a fast-paced, graphics-heavy newscast, San Francisco’s Cox-owned KTVU relies on a more basic approach to news, with longer stories, beat reporting and in-depth coverage.
It works.
The station owns the news bookends of morning and late local. In May, KTVU was tops in households and adults 25 to 54 at 5 a.m., 6 a.m. and 7 a.m., and at 10 p.m. against the competition at 11 p.m. and 9 p.m. KTVU has been the news leader in late local news since 1998 in both households and demos.
The station was second to ABC owned-and-operated station KGO-TV in midday news and at 6 p.m. in the 25 to 54 demo in May.
KTVU started 45 years ago as an independent and became a Fox affiliate in 1986. A pivotal moment in the station’s history came in 2002, when Young Broadcasting-owned NBC station KRON-TV became independent and NBC O&O KNTV emerged as the new NBC affiliate in the market.
That affiliation change helped solidify KTVU’s already steady course as a news leader. “Whenever you have an affiliation change, the stations that stay the same do better, and our core is strength and stability,” news director Ed Chapuis said. “I think our viewers appreciate the fact that we haven’t changed.”
The New Leader
The station has led in the 25 to 54 demo at 5 a.m., 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. since the switch. KRON had been tops before then.
The race has tightened, though, in late local, with five instead of four stations vying for the audience. In 1993, KTVU snared 31 percent of late news ratings points, a number that jumped to 40 percent in 1999. It’s down to about 30 percent today, KTVU said.
Mr. Chapuis believes KTVU can increase its viewership in late local by growing in other areas, such as the noon news and the 6 p.m. news, which was added three years ago.
KTVU’s noon news ranked No. 1 in households for the first time since 1999 in the just-completed July sweeps.
“News viewers tend to be very loyal. If you are able to provide them news content all throughout the day, they are more likely to tune in to other newscasts. They feed off each other,” he said.
Part of the loyalty comes from the familiar faces on the air. Late news anchor Dennis Richmond has been with KTVU for 35 years, and his co-anchor, Leslie Griffith, for 17. Health and science editor John Fowler joined in 1975, and political reporter Randy Shandobil in 1978.
The 10 p.m. news is different from the late news on most Fox stations, Mr. Chapuis said. Many of the stories are two to 21/2 minutes in length, while longer ones can run four to five minutes. Most other newscasts allow one minute and 15 seconds or 11/2 minutes for stories.
The station regularly tackles serious news topics, enterprise stories and investigative pieces. Its “Segment 2” investigative pieces air nightly during sweeps and a few times a week during nonratings periods.
“When I look around the country and see other Fox stations, they tend to be a little more slick, fast paced, graphics-driven or may play to that young Fox audience,” Mr. Chapuis said. “That’s not really what we do and who we are. We play to our news core audience.”