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Why Do You Think KUSA was #1 for 40 YEARS?

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Why do you think Channel 9 has dominated the Denver market for so long? What were the ingredients to their success?

 

We all know their news product is mediocre, and they don't do any hard news or investigative reporting. A friend of mine told me Mike Nelson left KUSA for KMGH in June 2004, and he's still at ABC7 today.

 

ABC has been number one in the late 70s, and under KBTV in 1976, channel 9 began dominance alongside ABC. After the switch from ABC to NBC in 1995 under KUSA, NBC was number one in the late 90s, and 9NEWS and NBC were side by side in dominating the Denver market. Could it be because 9NEWS was #1 side-by-side with the then-number-one networks?

 

Could it be because Channel 9 launched the on-air cosmetic look of red-white-and-blue, where other stations owned by Gannett (now Tegna) followed suit with the patriotic look (including WXIA, WUSA, KARE)?

 

Could it be because 9NEWS was the first station in the Denver market to get a news helicopter called SKY9?

 

Could it be because KUSA was the launchpad of anchors and reporters moving onto rival stations? That includes Jim Benneman and Linda Benzel of CBS4; Kevin Torres, Ron Zapollo, Nick Carter, Tom Green and Aristea Brady of CW2 and FOX31; Mike Nolan, Mike Landess, Mike Nelson and Bertha Lynn of ABC7.

 

Despite having a piss-poor news product, what made KUSA so successful for such a long time?

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I've written about this topic way too much, but I take exception to the points that KUSA is "a piss poor product" that doesn't do any hard news or investigative reporting. Sure, their morning and 4/9pm shows are a little looser, but KUSA is arguably the only station left in town that's dedicated to covering local politics in depth.

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I've written about this topic way too much, but I take exception to the points that KUSA is "a piss poor product" that doesn't do any hard news or investigative reporting. Sure, their morning and 4/9pm shows are a little looser, but KUSA is arguably the only station left in town that's dedicated to covering local politics in depth.

 

Not to mention the people who's walked those doors that have since became famous personalities in Denver and Colorado:

Ed Sardella (retired)

Mike Landess (later KMGH, now KYTX)

Ron Zappolo (back to commentaries at KUSA)

Adele Arakawa (still there)

Mark Koebrich (retired after 40+ years)

Kathy Sabine (still there as well)

 

That's all I can think of as of right now but KUSA's had a lot of good people walk through those doors and part of that helped.

 

Plus, newscast branding. I mean, KCNC has changed brandings several times and so has KMGH. Even KDVR has changed theirs only once (very briefly though to add "Denver"), but KUSA has maintained just one single branding for the last 40+ years. That's something that's worth nothing for.

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They're considered to be one of the best stations in the country among those in the industry. You don't get those accolades by putting out a "piss-poor news product."

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Being able to consistently put out a good product and keep talent for many years or decades helps A LOT. Just look at Kansas City. KMBC has been an undisputed leader for almost always. KSHB has been an undisputed loser for almost always. KMBC is loaded with talent that's been there since the 70s and 80s. The longest tenured person at KSHB has only been there since the 90s. Most everyone else has joined them this decade/century and already left. Do you want to watch a station whose faces have been on TV in your city for decades and are seasoned, veteran reporters, or a station who is continually ushering in new, pretty faces, and relatively inexperienced reporters that only last a few years?

 

Being involved in your community is also a huge huge huge deal, as well as a good parent company and station leadership.

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Hell, we could ask the same question ourselves about WSB, whose news product is a lot more shittier than KUSA's (especially for a top 10 market like Atlanta)!

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Hell, we could ask the same question ourselves about WSB, whose news product is a lot more shittier than KUSA's (especially for a top 10 market like Atlanta)!

What makes you think WSB's product is shitty? The murders of the day, their hard news coverage? Their investigations and repetitive news? At least it not a cookie cutter newscast.

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As an aside, how great it is to see some TVbD-esque design continue on:

 

[MEDIA=instagram]BGhxIlBGjcl[/MEDIA]

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What makes you think WSB's product is shitty? The murders of the day, their hard news coverage? Their investigations and repetitive news? At least it not a cookie cutter newscast.

No, it's the fact that they've been monopolizing the Atlanta news ratings longer than anyone else...and I'm one of the many people who's glad WAGA is closing the gap (they were #1 themselves in the early '80s).

 

Thankfully, the only hour WSB doesn't win is 3:00 pm (when WGCL airs Young and the Restless while WAGA, WXIA, and WSB have Steve Harvey and Drs. Phil and Oz respectively)

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They're considered to be one of the best stations in the country among those in the industry. You don't get those accolades by putting out a "piss-poor news product."

 

Yes. Others in the industry awarding others in the industry. There's nothing like outside analysis from, oh never mind.

 

 

As an aside, how great it is to see some TVbD-esque design continue on:

 

[MEDIA=instagram]BGhxIlBGjcl[/MEDIA]

 

This and 9HealthFair are the only reasons they continue to be number one. I've talked to some who work there whom have admitted how 9News spends it's revenue and how it endures. It's their community outreach department that sees the most investment. They drive the ratings. Not news.

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No, it's the fact that they've been monopolizing the Atlanta news ratings longer than anyone else...and I'm one of the many people who's glad WAGA is closing the gap (they were #1 themselves in the early '80s).

 

Thankfully, the only hour WSB doesn't win is 3:00 pm (when WGCL airs Young and the Restless while WAGA, WXIA, and WSB have Steve Harvey and Drs. Phil and Oz respectively)

 

I see your point, and WSB does need to be challenge where WAGA for the longest did there many times during their run when CBS, and there was a time in the mid 80s WXIA also challenge WSB as well too. However, Cox owns the market and will spend the $$$ to win while WAGA, WXIA & WGCL are strap for cash. WSB feels that the competition in their own market is not who they compete with. They feel like their competition is WPV & WABC. WAGA getting a bump up it good, but ever since they became FOX template it not the same from their CBS days. However, WAGA always followed "what is WSB doing, and how can we do it better mantra"? Really, wish TEGNA would invest in WXIA and looks like WGCL is trying.

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I'm still shocked that 9's the most watched station in the Mile High City since the KBTV days.

That's staying power in my book.

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Sardella credits good timing.

 

He got put in the top slot right as ABC carried the Winter Olympics, so there was a fresh product and talent to sample.

 

He and Landess struck a truce early in their reign not to step on each other's toes.

 

Good consultants (Magid) pushed the community first theme and investment in equipment.

 

CBS falling apart in the 80s didn't help KMGH - so the audience from the former leader fragmented out to KUSA and KCNC's benefit.

 

KCNC put up a good fight (GM there was the ex KBTV news director) - but the affiliate swap in '95 gave it the short end of the network stick.

 

After that...most stable anchor / reporter base in the market, so inertia takes hold and that community spending works.

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CBS falling apart in the 80s didn't help KMGH - so the audience from the former leader fragmented out to KUSA and KCNC's benefit.

 

KCNC put up a good fight (GM there was the ex KBTV news director) - but the affiliate swap in '95 gave it the short end of the network stick.

 

It's really fun to watch those old tapes from the 80s and 90s that are resurfacing on YouTube while trying to recognize talent. Watching old newscasts on KCNC, KUSA, and even KWGN, I recognize lots of people (many who stayed in the Denver market for years or who may still be on the air here). But on KMGH tapes? Aside from Anne Trujillo and the Bert and Ernie periods, KMGH was a revolving door of talent even then, just as it is now.

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Broadcasting never was McGraw-Hill's strong suit, it seems. I remember in the last years of MGH's ownership of those stations, how melancholic and marginal everything about KMGH felt. It felt like McGraw-Hill didn't care about KMGH, the way Gannett and CBS cared about KUSA and KCNC.

 

They have hung their hat on poaching Mike Nelson from KUSA for how long now?

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Habit, on-air chemistry, continuity in personnel.

The same reasons why WJW was the market leader in Cleveland for roughly that same time (and might still be even after Sinclair turns it into a conservative agitprop hellhole, see WJAR).

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