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KVOA UNFAZED BY LENO, O'BRIEN, NBC MESS

NBC's inevitable announcement that it was bringing an end to the Jay Leno primetime experiment has provided fabulous fodder for the gossip sector in light of the Leno/Conan O'Brien feud that followed, but for affiliates the move was a sigh of relief. They were disenchanted with Leno's short-lived concept from the early stages, as numbers plummeted for the all-important late local news lead-in. Some of the larger markets experienced drops of close to 50 percent as a result of Leno's unpopularity in the time slot. The impact at Tucson NBC affiliate KVOA Channel 4?

"Nothing," said KVOA GM Bill Shaw. "That's the weird thing. Candidly, I anticipated there would be a significant drop in our late news. We didn't see it. The news director and I were cringing with the (ratings) book coming in, and we opened it up to look at the numbers and we were pleasantly surprised. I did speak to some other people in other markets and they saw similar results to ours in some markets, and in others sometimes a 20-, 30-percent drop. People in metered markets were seeing the impact."

An impact to the tune of 48 percent in New York, 47 percent in Philadelphia and 43 percent in Los Angeles in the all-important 25-54 demographic. When the affiliates from those markets start screaming, the honchos at the network pay heed. The late news is a significant revenue stream for local stations, and the primetime network lead-in is a major factor in keeping viewers, thus reaping the benefits of advertising dollars.

"It's huge," Shaw said. "On a scale of one to 10, I'd give it an eight. People say it's different now because of DVR and remotes. It's not like the old flow studies where it's incredibly important, but you're promoting the news. I'm a channel surfer, but if there's not a reason to switch, I don't."

Nationally, people switched from Leno in droves in what turned out to be a disastrous cost-cutting effort on the part of a struggling and unfocused NBC that plunged the network even deeper into its fourth-place chasm. As much as the network was paying Leno, it was still a significant savings when compared to the costs of scripted programming. NBC will run out the string in January before its coverage of the Winter Olympics gets underway. Once that's completed it will roll out a new lineup in March that includes The Marriage Ref, a so-called comedy panel show produced by Jerry Seinfeld; Lisa Kudrow's Who Do You Think You Are; Parenthood; a game show called Minute to Win It and a healthy dose of Law and Order.

Naturally, the locals hope this helps to get struggling NBC back on track.

"Had they left that format and it had continued in its way, would it have hurt our news? I'd have to think it would have because I've seen over the years when you have a poor lead-in it's a ripple effect," said Shaw, who replaced Gary Nielsen as KVOA Channel 4 general manager in November. "Your promotion isn't as impactful and eventually it catches up. If they can revamp the prime, it's all upside for us."


BRODE MAKES MOVE TO PORTLAND

KVOA Channel 4's morning meteorologist Matt Brode will conclude his four-year stint in Tucson at the end of February. Brode has accepted a similar position in Portland.

"They like the personality and they like the meteorology degree," said Brode. "It's a morning news position, and obviously it's a bigger market so they have more dollars to work with up there. I'm 37, going to be 38 soon, so I'm looking out for the bottom line. Got to look to bigger and brighter cities."

Or in the case of Portland, bigger and cloudier cities.

"In the meteorologist game, let's be honest. You can fall asleep at the wheel in Tucson when it's sunny 335 days out of the year," Brode said. "I'm looking for a challenge in a place that has some real weather to talk about, from the weather geek standpoint."

Brode has long been connected to Tucson. His father spent time here in the '40s and his uncle graduated from Tucson High in 1948. He graduated from the UA with a communications degree in 1994, and tried his hand at sales before returning to school for his AMS meteorology credentials in 2002. From there he landed TV weather gigs in Duluth and West Palm Beach, where he encountered the impact of hurricanes Katrina and Wilma, among others. Brode was the second hire of KVOA's then news director Kathleen Choal in early 2006.

"I am disappointed Matt is leaving News 4 but I understand this is a great opportunity for him in Portland," said Choal, now KVOA station manager, via e-mail. "Matt has become family in his four years here as the meteorologist on Tucson Today and our noon newscast. He will be greatly missed by our viewers and by his co-workers."

Brode said he had an excellent time at KVOA.

"(Morning news anchor Josh) Benson and I are truly great friends. We've been on that show since day one. The staff's been great. Josh and I have been a mainstay there," Brode said. "There's a lot of history in Tucson, going to the UA, the positive experiences at KVOA. I've enjoyed being on the No. 1 show in the mornings, and appreciated the support of management, the co-anchors, producers, everybody."

Brode's final day at KVOA is Feb. 26. He begins his duties in Portland on March 1.


KIIM GARNERS RADIO STATION NOMINATIONS

KIIM FM 99.5 will be in the mix at the Country Radio Seminar Awards banquet in Nashville in late February. This awards ceremony is filling the void for the now-defunct Radio and Records event, of which KIIM was a consistent awards nominee. KIIM is nominated in the medium market radio station category. Additionally, Buzz Jackson, who has been up for numerous national honors, is among the finalists for Medium Market Program Director of the Year, and Ken Kowalcek has been nominated for Medium Market General Manager of the Year.

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