Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Just In Time for Sweeps or Halloween

The Return of KXAN
Just in Time for Sweeps

KXAN TV (NBC) and sister station KNVA (CW) are back on Time Warner Cable on their former channels.

KXAN TV’s owner, LIN TV, announced today that they had signed retransmission contracts with Time Warner Cable allowing them to carry LIN stations’ analogue and digital signals nationwide. LIN operates 17 stations in a dozen markets where Time Warner is the major cable TV carrier. This means that Lin's separate digital channels will also find homes in slots on TWC.

“We are pleased to have reached a fair market agreement with Time Warner Cable,” said LIN TV’s President and Chief Executive Officer Vincent L. Sadusky in the news release. “This agreement, which represents a mutually acceptable economic agreement between the parties, is further indication of the value of our television stations.”

That’s a big deal. LIN had been seeking compensation of some type. TWC had been trying to avoid setting a costly precedent in the settlement which could have far-reaching effect for future negotiations with other stations.

The bitter struggle laced with ugly assertions on both sides has been no doubt costly over the past month. And the repercussions of the stalemate may be felt in the November sweeps that start tomorrow, October 30th. The TV stations must have struggled with ad sales. LIN stock (TVL) had dropped from an initial purchase price of $22 to an all-time low of $2.02. The stock is up slightly. Meantime, angry TWC customers sought alternatives in droves. Satellite providers said they were installing as fast as they could in Austin. The same was true of Texas-based Grande Communications whose spokesman said, “We can’t build it fast enough.” The biggest winner may be AT&T’s U-verse, but it, like Grande, is not available everywhere in the market.

All of this is like a TV signal now—It’s here, and it’s gone (Unless you have a DVR).

The news now is that this coming November sweeps period may be the most interesting since 1995 when KTBC TV swapped networks with what became KEYE TV. Why? For the past month, many KXAN TV cable viewers have been sampling other local stations’ newscasts. The “soft” audience, those viewers who may not be died-in-the-wool KXAN devotees, may have found a new favorite. TV audiences in Austin are fickle, and the “no preference “group is larger here than in most cities. News viewing can be habitual. If something breaks the rhythm, people may stray and never come back. It happened in 1995. It was after the network switch that viewers found KXAN, making it #1.

KVUE TV’s Tyler Sieswerda has been waiting for a new co-anchor. Terri Gruca should be settling in soon. But, she is unknown to the Austin audience.

I’m thinking that the station that could benefit the most is KEYE TV. KEYE TV has been stable. Judy Maggio and Ron Oliveira have been rock steady. Meantime, Katie Couric may have found her voice with the Sarah Palin interviews. Further, the KEYE TV web site ( has been arguably the best in town.

But, this week, the stars aligned for LIN TV locally: Leslie Cook Rhode returned to anchor with Robert Hadlock after five years in Washington D.C. She seemed very much at home with friends Jim Spencer and Roger Wallace. KXAN also put up a new and truly improved web site ( as we foretold earlier this month. Now, KXAN is back on TWC.

So, my battle of the #1 anchor teams is set to begin just in time for Halloween. Trick or treat, indeed.

Jim McNabb
(C) 2008

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