Sunday, June 13, 2010

Texas Sports Nation Ramps Up

KEYE TV Bucks Trend

The Horns aren’t going to the College World Series, but one Austin, Texas station is ramping-up its sports department, bucking the trends at that their local competitors and many other stations nationwide.

Yes, sports coverage has been front page and first segment material for the past week as we watch what may be the end of the Big 12 Conference. It's all about TV money, but that's for another post. The point is this: In Austin right now, sports is news.

So, KEYE TV (CBS) is adding another anchor/reporter to “Texas Sports Nation”. Adam Winkler, most recently from KWTX-TV (CBS) in Waco, is joining the sports department at KEYE June 19, 2010. Winkler is no stranger to the Austin area. He earned his Communications Studies degree at Southwestern University in Georgetown.

Winkler says he played baseball, but realized early on that TV sports was where he belonged. Although Southwestern didn’t offer a specific TV degree, he used internships to gain knowledge of the business.

Winkler seems to make KEYE’s sports department the largest in the market. Bob Ballou is sports director. UT grad Courtney Timmons is his side-kick. Anthony Geronimo is their sports producer. He also shoots video and writes. Further, there is a dedicated sports photographer with the rest of the photography staff pitching in when needed.

“We realized how important the Longhorns are to people in our viewing area,” says Suzanne Black, KEYE news director. “We’ve been ramping up, and last weekend we re-launched “Texas Sports Nation” with new graphics and a new set. Adding Adam to the team will allow them to cover more angles.”

This is not to say that other Austin television stations don’t have adequate staffs. KXAN-TV (NBC) for example has three sports anchors and their chief photographer is also the sports photographer. Looking at local web sites, staffing at the other stations is much the same, but KEYE may be putting a greater emphasis on sports.

Cranking up sports is counter to trends locally and across the nation. Many stations have been cutting back on sports staffing and coverage. Local stations will limit sports coverage to two and a half minutes during the local newscast.

“Literature suggests that many stations are eliminating or otherwise revising the sports segment in response to industry conditions,” says the Sports Journal. Why? Ratings. "Sports is extremely polarizing," said television news consultant Brent Magid. "The majority can either take it or leave it, or despise it" (Greppi, 2002).

“Local TV stations now give more priority to weathercasts,” said Jim Williams of the Washington Examiner in 2009. His recent study found weather news got almost three times the amount of time on local newscasts than sportscasts.

"Sports anchors are becoming dinosaurs," Williams said. The local TV news "stars" are now the weather people. Women, particularly those in the age 18-49 demographic, are the main viewers of newscasts and they want weather, features and consumer news. Sports? Not so important. —PressBox, Baltimore Sports, October, 2009.

So, while these surveys indicate that only one third of the audience cares about sports, 72-percent want to see the weather. What’s killing sports, according to the egg-heads? The Internet and ESPN, of course.

But this is Austin, Texas. Things are different here. At least, that’s what KEYE is betting. With the possible dissolution of the Big 12, plus all the other local sports, “Texas Sports Nation” should be able to fill its time slot. Now, will it draw an audience?

One other note: KEYE TV “We are Austin” News welcomed a new reporter this past week. Julie Musgrave joined the staff from their sister Nextar station in Lubbock.

© Jim McNabb, 2010

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