Ulmer takes over as KOLD GM
When former GM Debbie Bush moved to the Midwest to accept a position with a television station in Cincinnati, KOLD TV nabbed a Midwesterner as her replacement.
Nick Ulmer, fresh off a stint with WFIE TV in Evansville, Indiana, is running the show for the CBS affiliate in the desert southwest.
"It's a larger market. It's considered a promotion and a highly sought-after market," Ulmer said. "People want to live here, myself included."
Ulmer could afford to be choosy, and has been for much of his career, which included a 28-year stint at a station in Louisville. But the Tucson position was obviously a jolt from a scenery and lifestyle standpoint, and he's still getting accustomed to that aspect.
"Oh my gosh. I'm just blown away. My wife loves it. We're extremely excited to be here," Ulmer said. "I'm a midwestern kid that knows hills and forests when I lived in Kentucky in a river town, but the terrain here is absolutely gorgeous. I have to be careful when I'm driving sometimes because I'm still just amazed by the beauty of the mountains and the desert in general."
Ulmer admits he has a different managing style than his predecessor, one primarily focused on department heads taking accountability, but likes the makeup of the station. Further, he says he isn't a corporate chopping block, a role other short-term GMs at other stations in the market have occasionally undertaken.
"It's a well run station with a tremendous staff," Ulmer said. "It was in very good shape when I came."
Beyond that, Ulmer has taken notice of the competitive nature of the market as a whole, best expressed visually through his station's news product and that of competitors KVOA and KGUN. He believes all three local news production outlets—KOLD also provides local news for KMSB TV—has clearly recognized and attempted to adapt to philosophical changes in the industry.
"What used to be news 25 years ago or 30 years ago, when I first got into the television business, is different than what would be considered news now," said Ulmer. "It's more than just reporting on crime today. There is a real focus on breaking news and having your audience confident that if something happens locally or nationally they only have to go to one place to get that information, and hopefully it's KOLD and KMSB."
That includes the all-important effort of blending what's available on television with a multitude of technological options designed for instant access.
"All of our news operations are focused on improving their digital footprint in the market, and that's important, and not just for young people. People of every demographic are using digital platforms, and that's a good thing," Ulmer said. "We've been involved in that for a long time. We have a little bit of a head start for people."
Which is necessary in a growing competitive landscape invaded by online, app options and social media that can make anyone an on-the-spot journalist at any given time. Additional media competition has also proven to create challenges on the sales side, but Ulmer, the lifelong television salesman, still sees the medium among the most viable advertising options.
"I think sometimes the power of television is underestimated by clients," Ulmer said. "They've been brainwashed by the amount of piling on and fragmentation. The competition talks about fragmentation, and there has been that, but there's no other medium that delivers the amount of reach as television in general. Our challenges are to demonstrate to clients that television is still an incredibly powerful media and different in that way than the other media available. This market has many great television stations. It's a good market. That's the challenge for all sales teams, to demonstrate the power of this medium. When I started, there weren't that many choices. Now there are plenty of choices, so we have to make sure our clients realize the new shiny thing for advertising isn't always the best and doesn't necessarily deliver an audience that's engaged. It doesn't have the impact as broadcast television. I've never seen TV not work, and I've been in this business for 40 years."
KMSB adds 5:30 newscast
KMSB TV 11 has launched the market's only 5:30 evening newscast. Ulmer says the station was already implementing the plan prior to his arrival, and the thought process was simple: there's a void in local news in the market at 5:30—the other station affiliates carry their respective national news then, something KMSB's affiliation with the FOX Network doesn't provide—and that presented an opportunity to try to make headway.
KMSB is owned by a different company than KOLD, but it pays KOLD to use its talent to provide local news product on its airwaves in an agreement that has become a lot more common in numerous markets in recent years. That agreement includes domain over the KMSB and KTTU TV 18 websites, now placed under the tucsonnewsnow.com umbrella.