KFSM 5 considering moving some operations from Fort Smith to NWA

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 601 views 

Rumors that officials with KFSM 5 are looking to move the station’s primary studio and administrative offices from Fort Smith to Northwest Arkansas may be more than just rumors. The general manager for KFSM 5 has acknowledged that the station and its parent company are discussing a plan to “increase the size of our operation” in Northwest Arkansas.

During the past several weeks several sources told The City Wire that KFSM execs are considering moving their headquarters operation in the Fort Smith/Northwest Arkansas designated market area (DMA) from Fort Smith to Northwest Arkansas. A specific rumor is that the station, owned by New York City-based Tribune Broadcasting, is considering a site near Arvest Ballpark in Springdale for a new building.

While he would not comment on specific rumors, KFSM General Manager Van Comer did tell The City Wire that a potential change is under consideration.

“I have conducted a series of preliminary meetings with employees to discuss a plan to increase the size of our operation in Fayetteville over time,” Comer said in an e-mail note to The City Wire. “We would keep a strong presence in Fort Smith. I cannot be specific because the plan is still being developed and must be reviewed and approved at our corporate office.”

If KFSM were to move its main studio and management offices to Northwest Arkansas, it would be the second of the two major TV stations in the DMA to do so.
KHBS/KHOG 40/29 moved its studio and sales and management offices to Rogers in September 2007. Part of the move to Rogers included moving some staff in Fayetteville to Rogers.

40/29 officials were quick to note that the station has a presence in Fort Smith.

“Today we continue to staff our Fort Smith studio with news reporters and photographers, a sales staff for both our ABC stations (40/29) and our sister station, The Arkansas CW,” noted a station statement. “Engineers also often work out of the Fort Smith studio. As you know there is a lot a news in Fort Smith so almost every day we assign Northwest Arkansas news staffers to bolster our Live, Local, Late-Breaking coverage in the River Valley.”

KNWA, an NBC affiliate and owned by Nexstar Broadcasting, planted its flag solely in Northwest Arkansas several years ago. The station typically lags far behind KFSM and KHBS/KHOG with respect to ratings.

Considering the growth of the Northwest Arkansas economy during the past 25 years compared to that of the Fort Smith metro area, it is not a surprise that out-of-state corporate media owners would want to move principal operations to Northwest Arkansas. For example, average monthly employment in Northwest Arkansas in 1990 was 118,904, more than 19,000 jobs above the Fort Smith metro monthly average of 99,635. However, in 2014, average monthly employment in Northwest Arkansas was 227,954, compared to 111,588 in the Fort Smith metro area. The NWA area grew its job base in 25 years by 91.7%, while the Fort Smith metro job growth during the same 25-year period was up just 12%.

Also, the 2014 metro GDP for Northwest Arkansas was $25.1 billion, up 3.1% compared to 2013. The Fort Smith metro GDP was $10.4 billion in 2014, up 1% compared to 2013.

The DMA in which KFSM and KHBS/KHOG operate covers 11 counties in Arkansas (Benton, Crawford, Franklin, Logan, Madison, Scott, Sebastian and Washington counties) and Oklahoma (LeFlore and Sequoyah counties). According to recent info from Kantar Media, the designated market area has 317,300 households and is projected to have 330,700 by 2020. The population of the DMA is estimated by Kantar to be 625,600, and is projected to reach 657,091 by 2020. The market was ranked 101 out of 210 U.S. markets.

Tribune Media, which owns KFSM, owns or operates 42 local television stations, reaching more than 50 million households. Powerhouses in the Tribune network include WPIX in New York City, KTLA in Los Angeles and WGN in Chicago.

For the six months ended June 30, the publicly held company (NYSE: TRCO) reported net income of $33.152 million, down considerably from the $123.99 million during the same period of 2014. Total revenue during the six-month period was $974.261 million, better than the $921.091 million during the same period of 2014. Net income losses were the result of several one-time factors, including a $37 million pre-tax charge related to debt refinancing, and a $24 million license fee charge.