KXAN continues to widen its lead in Austin’s TV news ratings race, according to new data from Nielsen.
In April, the city’s NBC affiliate ranked No. 1 at 4:30 a.m., 5 a.m., 6 a.m., 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. Middays, KXAN landed in a virtual tie with ABC affiliate KVUE.
KXAN’s 6 p.m. broadcast was, once again, the most-watched newscast in Central Texas, regardless of time period, drawing over 50,000 households – more viewers than second-place KVUE and third-place KEYE combined.
ABC’s “Good Morning America” is the top-rated network morning show, followed closely by NBC’s “Today.” “CBS This Morning” is third.
“NBC Nightly News” is the frontrunner at 5:30 p.m., outdrawing “ABC World News” and “CBS Evening News.”
In primetime, NBC is tops in Austin. ABC and CBS tied for second, followed by Fox, The CW and MyNetworkTV.
April Nielsen ratings
Each ratings point equals 7,456 Central Texas households. The first number is ratings points, the second is share (the percentage of in-use TV sets tuned to a particular channel) and the third is total households.
Ted Cruz, the U.S. senator and Texas Republican seeking the GOP nomination for president, has become the underdog, much like that scrappy high-school basketball team in the 1986 classic sports drama, “Hoosiers.”
Knowing that Cruz trails Trump in GOP delegates and is mathematically unable to beat the GOP front-runner, Stephen Colbert on Wednesday night tried to rally Cruz in sports terms only he would understand.
“Buck up. There’s no crying in sport-ball,” Colbert said. “You gotta keep bouncing that leather balloon down the wood room. You gotta dig long and down on the ground to give 110 degrees. Leave it all on the place where it happens, because winning isn’t all of the things, it’s the only stuff.”
Cruz, though, has a penchant for cribbing from Hollywood movies to make rhetorical points.
Jay Styles knows what it’s like to battle depression.
Over the years, the Mix 94.7 afternoon host has been open and honest about his struggles in hopes of helping others in similar situations. One of the most visible ways — his annual Courage Walk — happens this week.
“It’s hard for people to come forward, but once you get them started, once you make it easy for them, you have some really great conversations,” he said. “There really are so many people out there dealing with the same thing.”
Over the course of a week, Styles will walk 100 miles to raise awareness and money. And this year, for the first time, the public is invited to take part by walking the final 5 kilometers (about 3.1 miles) with Styles. The event will take place Saturday at 9 a.m. at Old Settlers Park, 3400 E. Palm Valley Blvd. in Round Rock.
“I’ve always wanted to do something like this, so when I got here to Austin, I decided to put it in motion,” Styles said. “I wanted something that would stick out and gain some attention. The response has been great.”
He decided to focus on veterans because there are so many in Texas, particularly in the Austin area because of its proximity to Fort Hood.
The 100-mile route Styles plans to take goes mostly through the Georgetown, Round Rock and Pflugerville areas, with law enforcement officers and firefighters expected to join him on and off along the way.
“The relationships we’ve built with those guys are just unbelievable,” he said.
The host admits he’s “not the most athletic guy,” which means the journey takes a toll on his body. His feet swell, he said, and one time he even had to use a cane. But the end result, he believes, is worth it.
“If you see me out there walking, give me a honk,” he said. “This is very important to me. A lot of people are struggling.”
Murray says he plans to take a year to relax and do some traveling with his wife, Crystal. After that, he’s open to whichever opportunities come his way.
“I’ll have plenty of time to think about it,” he said. “Right now, though, I’m really looking forward to stepping back from broadcasting and donating all my ties to Goodwill and trading in my suits for obnoxious Hawaiian shirts.”
Murray started as KVUE’s weekend meteorologist, before being bumped up to chief meteorologist in 1993, replacing Troy Kimmel.
He arrived in Austin after spending time in Colorado. Back when he first got his start, Murray said, the forecasts were still done on marker boards with magnetic suns that never seemed to stay in the right spot. There were no computers.
Kimmel, a fixture on Austin TV for decades, said Murray immediately stood out from other applicants.
“There’s a lot of things I’m proud of from my time at KVUE, but I’m most proud of the fact we hired Mark,” Kimmel said. “Mark’s been amazing since the minute we brought him on board. He’s become such a close friend. It’s been great to watch him grow over the years. He really knows Austin and the people of Austin absolutely love him.”
Combined, the four have spent about 70 years at KVUE.
“There’s a wealth of wisdom and experience walking out the door at KVUE this spring,” said former KVUE and KEYE news anchor Judy Maggio, who worked alongside Murray for about a decade. “Mark Murray is a first-class meteorologist who truly cares about accurate forecasting and keeping viewers informed. He’s part of the fabric of Austin and will continue to be through his involvement and love of the music scene here. He’s been a dear friend both on and off the anchor desk. I’ll certainly miss him on the air, but now he and Crystal will be able to join us for weeknight concerts.”
Longtime viewers know music is one of Murray’s passions. He’s delivered forecasts on 93.3 KGSR-FM for years and is a regular at music events around town. He’s even been known to give personalized forecasts to some of his pals, like the time he helped talk Lyle Lovett through a hurricane.
“I really have enjoyed my time here,” Murray said. “There’s so many people who watch every night. They’re not just viewers. They’re my friends. It’ll be sad to lose that bond, but I know I’ll still see them around town.”
Leaving behind the current KVUE anchor team – newscasters Sieswerda, Terri Gruca and Quita Culpepper, plus sports director Mike Barnes – will be hard, as well, Murray said.
“Everything you see on air is genuine,” he said. “We enjoy each other’s company, each other’s bad jokes. It truly is fun to go to work every day.”
Throughout Murray’s time at KVUE, the station has consistently ranked at or near the top of the local Nielsen ratings. That means thousands of Central Texans have counted on him over the years to navigate severe weather.
“It has been an honor and a privilege to have worked with Mark Murray for so long,” Volpicella said. “He dedicated more than 25 years of his life to KVUE and the Austin community. His contributions can’t be measured. I recall all the times he was on the air for hours at a time during ice storms, floods and tornadoes. He dedicated his life to helping to save lives and property during severe weather. He is an icon in our industry. Mark Murray simply cannot be replaced.”
Morning meteorologist Albert Ramon will shift to evenings while the station searches for its next chief meteorologist. Ramon joined KVUE in 2009, but he’d formed a bond with Murray long before then.
When Ramon was 12 years old, spending part of his summer with family in Bastrop, he wrote Murray a letter, asking for an autographed picture. Twenty years later, he’s still got that photo.
“I don’t know if Mark realizes just how much I’ve learned from him,” Ramon said. “I owe him a lot of thanks. He’s my friend, my mentor, someone I’ve looked up to since I was a kid.”
Ramon says Murray taught him, among other things, how to stay “calm, cool and collected” when severe weather hits.
“Mark’s a cool guy, but he’s very serious about his job,” Ramon said. “It’s a perfect balance. He’ll get you through the rough spots without using scare tactics, without being over the top. He just talks you through it. Viewers respect that and appreciate that.”
“It was a difficult decision,” Volpicella said. “I love KVUE. I love the staff. It’s been quite an emotional time.”
Volpicella said he’s not sure what’s next, although he said he hopes to remain in the Austin area – either staying in journalism or working in another field.
“I plan on being retired for about 10 minutes,” he said. “I’ve been working since I was 16 and I’ve never been without a job. Even when I changed jobs, I always left on a Friday and started on a Monday. We’ll just see what doors open this time.”
“Frank Volpicella is an icon in the television news business, not only in Austin, but throughout the country,” Smith said. “He’s given his heart and his considerable talents to this station for over 15 years. From day one, Frank and I have agreed on the principles of how you create and manage a team of individuals that will exemplify ‘Where trust is earned.’ That partnership between general manager and news director has been critical to the success of the station over the years.
“I hold Frank in the highest of regard for his character. He’s the most principled news director I’ve ever known and he sets the example for integrity in the business. KVUE wouldn’t be the honored station it is without his years of commitment to our service and success. For that, the entire staff at KVUE thanks him for his years of dedicated service to KVUE and this community.”
Smith, Volpicella said, is a big reason why he’s been at KVUE so long.
“Patti and I connected from the very beginning,” he said. “In 15 and a half years, we’ve never once had a disagreement. It’s uncanny. I’ve had many opportunities arise elsewhere over the years, but I always chose to stay.”
During Volpicella’s time at KVUE, he was responsible for hiring almost all of the reporters and news anchors on the air today and oversaw newscasts that have received countless awards and have consistently ranked at or near the top of the Austin Nielsen ratings.
“I’m most proud of my staff,” Volpicella said. “Our success has always been about what the staff accomplishes. Their hard work won us the station’s first Emmy, the station’s first Peabody and a national Murrow Award.”
Volpicella said he’s particularly proud of the many employees – in front of the cameras and behind the scenes – over the years who’ve jumped to TV stations in larger cities. Some have even gone to the major networks.
One of those success stories is Michelle Chism, who spent two years as KVUE’s assistant news director before moving up to a station in Baltimore.
“His dedication to KVUE, his staff, ‘capital J’ journalism and his community is unwavering,” Chism said. “Not only does Frank set the bar for journalists, he raises it so we can all become better, both professionally and personally. You will find no one better at managing people. You will find no one with better news judgment. You will find no one with higher ethics. I feel very blessed to have worked with Frank. He is, bar none, the best boss I’ve ever had. But I am even more privileged to call him a friend.”