Chasing the Young

WB11 and its girl-power anchor team are diving after a younger demographic. Will they belly-flop or win?

"It was taught really to me at a very young age that it's more about looks than common sense."

Andrew Frieden, a TV meteorologist who worked with Moon in Roanoke, Virginia -- where she anchored the area's top-rated morning newscast -- says: "I don't think it [the dumb-blonde rap] is deserved at all, other than the fact that she's blonde and attractive. [NBA All-Star] Kevin Garnett is tall, so people are, like, 'Oh, he's just a tall guy' when, in reality, he's a great all-around basketball player who's worked at his craft."

Melanie Moon and Kathryn Jamboretz
Jennifer Silverberg/Stylist: Vivian Ogler
Melanie Moon and Kathryn Jamboretz
Says Jamboretz, "The deadline pressure is so different when you have newscasts every four hours. Here, you can be a lot more selective."
Jennifer Silverberg
Says Jamboretz, "The deadline pressure is so different when you have newscasts every four hours. Here, you can be a lot more selective."

When it comes to a station's making money from advertisers, what counts are the ratings. And when it comes to KPLR's target market of 18- to 34-year-old women, the station has only a slight edge during the work week, when the WB runs its strongest lineup of programs attractive to that demographic -- a 2.5 rating compared to Fox 2's 2.3.

Overall, Fox2 boasts a 6.9 rating to KPLR's 4.0, easily capturing men of all ages and older women.

This forces KPLR GM Lanesey to fight a guerilla war to maintain a grip on his targeted niche, with Moon and Jamboretz the primary weapons.

"A lot of what we do is to be as different as we can from Channel 2 [Fox2]," explains Lanesey, who acknowledges that his news operation is a break-even proposition. "They have a bigger budget to play with. The primary way to be different was with two female anchors."

Neither Fox2 nor KPLR has ratings that match either of the 10 p.m behemoths -- KMOV (12.6) and top-ranked KSDK (16.0). But the Big Two's ratings have inched downward over the last decade, says Lanesey -- and the WB's niche tailoring comes at a time when the tried-and-true evening-news broadcast of one network affiliate (ABC's KDNL, Channel 30) was canceled outright.

Being different may not be enough.

"Certainly a WB affiliate that has tried to provide some news linkage with its programming audience has a wealth of subject matter for that demographic," says Kent Collins, chairman of the University of Missouri-Columbia's broadcast-journalism department. "The question is whether they go after serious issues relating to that demographic or just infotainment in news clothing."

Some WB affiliates -- namely those in San Diego and Los Angeles -- have skewed their news content toward a younger audience. But Tom Ehlmann, Lanesey's counterpart at the WB's Houston affiliate, is not convinced that WB11's youth-first strategy is entirely viable.

"I've just felt that young people aren't news viewers," says Ehlmann, a native St. Louisan. "We're just like St. Louis -- up against a Fox station at nine o'clock. We're thinking there are news viewers out there who aren't into WB but are just looking for news at nine o'clock. So that's the essential question: Do you feel like you can recruit news viewers who are looking for an alternative?"

Others -- among them Fox2 general manager Spencer Koch -- believe that KPLR's strategy and its pretty young anchors have at least some degree of merit.

"Can they reach that audience? Probably," says Koch. "Can they be successful from a business perspective? Probably."

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