Up To The Challenge: KVUE Faces Stiff Competition From Austin Music Scene

Oct 7, 2007  •  Post A Comment

In Austin, Texas, TV stations compete not just with each other, the Internet, wireless devices and other forms of media entertainment—but also with live music. “Austin bills itself as the live music capital of the world,” said KVUE-TV news director Frank Volpicella. “Any time of day or night, you can go to a club and listen to live music. It’s a place where people are outdoors, living their lives, and not necessarily loyal to a TV station, much less a particular program.”
KVUE, an ABC affiliate owned by Belo Corp., is located in the state capital, the No. 51 market. “It’s a well-educated market, and a high-tech market,” said Mr. Volpicella. “The University of Texas is the largest public university in the country, and our market’s demographics are young and a market with a lot of reasons not to watch TV. And because of that, we’re challenged every day to do great journalism. The viewer who may watch us on Wednesday may not watch us on Thursday.”
Against these odds, KVUE, headed by general manager Patti Smith, has succeeded and prospered as a result of what Mr. Volpicella calls “old-fashioned” values. “I believe that responsible and ethical journalism is the most important service we can provide our viewers,” he said. “And I’m supported by a company, the Belo Corp., that believes compelling, ethical, responsible journalism is the highest priority. I don’t have to sell my soul to a ratings point. I feel if you do a great job day in and day out to produce great TV that people will eventually find you and become loyal viewers.”
The evidence seems to bear out Mr. Volpicella’s convictions. He reported that KVUE’s newscast hasn’t lost a ratings race in a major ratings period in the last year and a half. For four years in a row, KVUE also has won the Murrow regional award for overall excellence in a small market. “As a side note, for the last three years in a row, we’ve also won the Texas Associated Press Station of the Year award,” he said.
Mr. Volpicella, who hired lead anchors Tyler Sieswerda and Christine Haas, noted that all of the station’s anchors are journalists. “They all report, which makes us unique,” he said.
Another top value at KVUE is investigative reporting and politics; the station covers the legislature extensively with political reporter Elaine Hu. “In the last year, covering the Texas legislature can be compared to covering the characters at a circus, and we covered all the political maneuvering and smoke-filled backroom negotiations,” said Mr. Volpicella.
Although this year didn’t feature any major infighting, there was a gubernatorial election in 2006 that featured some unique candidates, including the woman who billed herself as “One Tough Grandma” and country-Western singer-novelist Kinky Friedman.
Investigative reporter Ms. Haas won a regional Murrow in the past for her work uncovering fraud among local businesses claiming federal business loans set aside for companies impaired by the events of 9/11; she also reported a story on Texas’ recycling driver’s license numbers. In the first story, Ms. Haas uncovered a local podiatrist and an oil-change shop that had applied for the federal “star loan” program for businesses impacted by 9/11. “The companies apparently didn’t have to prove that they somehow suffered hardship because of 9/11,” said Mr. Volpicella. “She won a regional Murrow and a Texas AP award for that story.”
KVUE’s Web site has won Texas AP’s award for best Web site as well as a regional Murrow Award. “We’ve always been very aggressive and forward-thinking when it comes to our Web site,” said Mr. Volpicella.
KVUE also is a pioneer when it comes to providing news for mobile devices, even though this market is still in its infancy. “We’ve had a KVUE-on-the-Go service that provided a mini-newscast to mobile devices,” he said. “It hasn’t jumped to the point where it needs to be.”
The challenge for KVUE is to maintain its position. “We’re our own fiercest competitor,” he said. “And everyone is gunning for No. 1. We’ve got very strong competitors whom I respect, and that makes it fun and exciting.”
The upcoming national political primaries are on tap for this station that thrives on political coverage. “We will be covering the political campaigns aggressively,” Mr. Volpicella said. “Our plans now are to go to New Hampshire and Iowa for the caucus and the primary, and to attend both the Democratic and Republican conventions. It’s pretty ambitious, but we’ve done that since I’ve been here, and KVUE has a history of being in the forefront of political coverage. Beyond that, it’s important for our audience and for the direction and future of our country.”


  1. This is getting a bit more subjective, but I much prefer the Zune Marketplace. The interface is colorful, has more flair, and some cool features like ‘Mixview’ that let you quickly see related albums, songs, or other users related to what you’re listening to. Clicking on one of those will center on that item, and another set of “neighbors” will come into view, allowing you to navigate around exploring by similar artists, songs, or users. Speaking of users, the Zune “Social” is also great fun, letting you find others with shared tastes and becoming friends with them. You then can listen to a playlist created based on an amalgamation of what all your friends are listening to, which is also enjoyable. Those concerned with privacy will be relieved to know you can prevent the public from seeing your personal listening habits if you so choose.

  2. I just subscribed to your rss feed after reading this article! Could you write more on the topic in future articles?

  3. You make blogging look like a walk in the park! I’ve been trying to blog daily but I just cant find writing material.. you’re an inspiration to me and i’m sure many others!

  4. I am extremely impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout on your blog. Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself? Either way keep up the nice quality writing, it’s rare to see a nice blog like this one these days.. 🙂

  5. This is great! How did you learn this stuff when you were a newbie?

Your Comment

Email (will not be published)