After 2 years away, former KVUE news boss returning to Austin

Frank Volpicella

Frank Volpicella, KVUE’s news director for 16 years before departing in 2016, is returning home.

Volpicella, who served as managing editor at WJXT in Jacksonville, Fla., and news director at WGCL in Atlanta since leaving Austin, is set to become the next general manager of Community Impact’s Cedar Park-Leander edition.

“After two and a half years of being away from the best city in the country, I’m returning in mid-October,” Volpicella said. “I am thrilled to be able to return home and be close to family and friends. Our son and daughter-in-law live in Dallas, and my wife and I couldn’t stand being so far away from them. I am also excited to be able to serve the community I love once again.”

Volpicella was one of several high-profile KVUE staffers who left the station when its owner, Tegna, offered voluntary buyouts two years ago. Others included chief meteorologist Mark Murray.

Volpicella says he’s excited about what’s ahead. He partnered with Community Impact on several occasions while at KVUE, and is well acquainted with the publication’s founder, John Garrett.

“I am leaving TV news after a long career in broadcast journalism to now work for a company and a publication that I admire and respect,” he said. “The company leaders share the same vision I have, of serving our communities with quality journalism in order to make our communities a better place to live. I spent 16 years in the Cedar Park-Leander area, making friends and developing business partners. I hope to renew those friendships when I return this fall.

“On a personal note, I look forward to seeing a Texas sunset again over Lake Travis and to eating the best barbecue and Tex-Mex anywhere. But most of all I look forward to being close to family and to renew the friendships that I made during my 16 years here.”

May TV ratings: See how your favorite Austin news station fared

KXAN’s evening anchor team includes sports director Roger Wallace, left, news anchors Sydney Benter and Robert Hadlock and chief forecaster Jim Spencer.

TV stations across the country wrapped up the all-important May “sweeps” period Wednesday, pulling out all the stops to get viewers to tune in.

Looking at total households and the advertiser-coveted demographic of adults ages 25-54, NBC affiliate KXAN and ABC affiliate KVUE were the frontrunners, for the most part.

KVUE was the station to beat in the morning, while KXAN was the frontrunner in the evening.

CBS Austin, meanwhile, reported that it saw year-over-year growth for six of the seven newscasts it produces weekdays, including a 27 percent increase in households at 10 p.m. That was enough to push “CBS Austin News at 10 p.m.” into second place, behind KXAN and ahead of KVUE.

“I am proud of this team’s hard work,” said Amy Villarreal, vice president and general manager for CBS Austin and Telemundo Austin. “CBS Austin News is committed to winning breaking news on all platforms, providing important consumer advocacy reports and producing exclusive content in all newscasts. We will continue to work hard to be a trusted news source for our Central Texas viewers.”

TV stations use Nielsen ratings from sweeps months to set the price they charge for commercials. More viewers mean higher ad rates.

May Nielsen ratings: Total households

Each ratings point equals 7,915 Central Texas households. The first number is ratings points and the second is total households.

4:30 a.m.

KVUE: 1 / 7,915

KTBC: .7 / 5,541

KXAN: .3 / 2,375

KEYE: .3 / 2,375

5 a.m.

KVUE: 1.5 / 11,873

KXAN: 1 / 7,915

KTBC: 1 / 7,915

KEYE: .5 / 3,958

6 a.m.

KVUE: 2.8 / 22,162

KXAN: 2.3 / 18,205

KTBC: 1.7 / 13,456

KEYE: .9 / 7,124

11 a.m.

KVUE: 2 / 15,830

Noon

KXAN: 2.1 / 16,622

KTBC: 1.2 / 9,498

5 p.m.

KXAN: 4.4 / 34,826

KVUE: 4.1 / 32,452

KTBC: 2.4 / 18,996

KEYE: 1.3 / 10,290

6 p.m.

KXAN: 5.9 / 46,699

KVUE: 4.4 / 34,826

KEYE: 1.9 / 15,039

9 p.m.

KTBC: 2.7 / 21,371

KNVA: .8 / 6,332

9:45 p.m.

KNVA: .5 / 3,958 (‘KXAN Sports: More Than the Score’)

10 p.m.

KXAN: 4.8 / 37,992

KEYE: 3.2 / 25,328

KVUE: 2.8 / 22,162

KTBC: 2 / 15,830

May Nielsen ratings: Adults ages 25-54

Each ratings point equals 8,456 Central Texans ages 25-54. The first number is ratings points and the second is total in-demo viewers.

4:30 a.m.

KVUE: .4 / 3,382

KTBC: .1 / 846

KXAN: .1 / 846

KEYE: .1 / 846

5 a.m.

KVUE: .6 / 5,074

KXAN: .6 / 5,074

KTBC: .2 / 1,691

KEYE: .1 / 846

6 a.m.

KVUE: 1.8 / 15,221

KXAN: 1.5 / 12,684

KTBC: .6 / 5,074

KEYE: .4 / 3,382

11 a.m.

KVUE: .6 / 5,074

Noon

KXAN: .5 / 4,228

KTBC: .4 / 3,382

5 p.m.

KVUE: 1.3 / 10,993

KTBC: 1.2 / 10,147

KXAN: 1 / 8,456

KEYE: .2 / 1,691

6 p.m.

KXAN: 1.8 / 15,221

KVUE: 1.7 / 14,375

KEYE: .4 / 3,382

9 p.m.

KTBC: 1.4 / 11,838

KNVA: .3 / 2,537

9:45 p.m.

KNVA: .2 /  1,691 (‘KXAN Sports: More Than the Score’)

10 p.m.

KXAN: 2 / 16,912

KTBC: 1.3 / 10,993

KVUE: 1.1 / 9,302

KEYE: .8 / 6,765

Former KVUE anchor Olga Campos Benz announces new gig

Olga Campos Benz

Longtime Austin newscaster Olga Campos Benz has segued into a new career, joining Austin-based Bloom Communications as community development director.

Campos Benz, who published a book last year, “It’s News to Me,” will work to raise Bloom’s profile in the Austin area by forging connections with community organizations.

“I am thrilled to join a team with such an active and meaningful role in our local community,” she said. “Bloom’s absolute commitment to giving back is more than an organizational program – it’s a foundational principle apparent in everything they do, and I’m proud to be a part of such a smart and genuinely kind agency.”

Bloom, which has offices in Austin and Portland, Ore., specializes in working with clients in the nonprofit and healthcare sectors.

“The addition of Olga to our team is an extraordinary complement to our success and how much we’ve accomplished over the last six years,” said Brianna McKinney, founder and president of Bloom Communications. “Olga’s ties to the Austin community, the extent of her experience, and her shared passion for philanthropy will be incredibly valuable to Bloom and our clients as we continue to grow.”

Learn more about Bloom at bloom-comm.com.

KVUE adding an hour of weekend news

KVUE weekend anchor Kris Betts (John Gusky photo / KVUE)

KVUE is adding an hour of weekend news starting this month.

Both the additions at the city’s ABC affiliate are on Saturdays.

A new 5 p.m. Saturday newscast debuts this weekend, while the station took the wraps off a newly expanded, hour-long 10 p.m. Saturday newscast last weekend.

KVUE already airs an hour-long 10 p.m. newscast on Sundays.

Current weekend anchor Kris Betts will add the new broadcasts to her existing schedule.


KVUE weekend newscasts

  • Saturday: 7 to 9 a.m., 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 10 to 11 p.m.
  • Sunday: 7 to 9 a.m., 5:30 p.m. and 10 to 11 p.m.

November TV ratings: KXAN’s still the station to beat

KXAN’s morning team features Amanda Dugan, Sally Hernandez, John Dabkovich and David Yeomans.

KXAN continues to be Austin’s top choice for local TV news, according to the latest Nielsen ratings.

In the November “sweeps” period, the city’s NBC affiliate was home to the No. 1-rated 5 a.m., 6 a.m., 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. English-language newscasts.

ABC affiliate KVUE placed first at 4:30 a.m. and middays.

Mornings, in particular, were especially competitive, with less than one rating point separating the top three contenders.

“We continue to stand by our commitment to producing in-depth stories in all newscasts and investigating the issues that affect our local community,” KXAN vice president and general manager Eric Lassberg said. “We work as hard as we can to follow up on the tips we receive from the people of Central Texas; please keep them coming because it’s working to get results. The entire KXAN staff is honored to continue being the top choice for local news in Central Texas.”

Looking at national news broadcasts, ABC’s “Good Morning America” is the most-watched network morning show in Austin, while “NBC Nightly News” is the nighttime network newscast of choice here.

In prime time, Fox was the network to beat in Central Texas, followed by NBC, CBS, ABC, The CW and then MyNetworkTV.

CBS’ Stephen Colbert wins the late-night TV race among local viewers, followed by NBC’s Jimmy Fallon and then ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel.


November Nielsen ratings

Each ratings point equals 7,915 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.

4:30 a.m.

  • KVUE: .8 / 8 / 6,332
  • KXAN: .6 / 5.5 / 4,749
  • KTBC: .6 / 5.3 / 4,749
  • KEYE: .3 / 2.7 / 2,375

5 a.m.

  • KXAN: 1.1 / 9.2 / 8,707
  • KTBC: 1.1 / 8.9 / 8,707
  • KVUE: 1 / 8.7 / 7,915
  • KEYE: .4 / 3.1 / 3,166

6 a.m.

  • KXAN: 2.3 / 12.9 / 18,205
  • KVUE: 2.2 / 12.5 / 17,413
  • KTBC: 1.7 / 9.4 / 13,456
  • KEYE: .8 / 4.4 / 6,332

7 a.m.

  • KTBC: 2.3 / 9.8 / 18,205
  • KNVA: .3 / 1.4 / 2,375

8 a.m.

  • KTBC: 2.5 / 10.1 / 19,788

9 a.m.

  • KTBC: 2.2 / 9.1 / 17,413
  • KEYE: .6 / 2.6 / 4,749 (‘We Are Austin’)

11 a.m.

  • KVUE: 1.9 / 7.2 / 15,039
  • KXAN: .8 / 3.2 / 6,332 (‘Studio 512’)

Noon

  • KXAN: 1.8 / 6.5 / 14,247
  • KTBC: 1.6 / 6 / 12,664

5 p.m.

  • KXAN: 4.9 / 12.4 / 38,784
  • KVUE: 4.2 / 10.6 / 33,243
  • KTBC: 2.7 / 6.6 / 21,371
  • KEYE: 1.1 / 2.9 / 8,707

6 p.m.

  • KXAN: 6.1 / 13.2 / 48,282
  • KVUE: 5.6 / 12.1 / 44,324
  • KEYE: 1.6 / 3.6 / 12,664

6:30 p.m.

  • KEYE: 1.9 / 3.8 / 15,039

9 p.m.

  • KTBC: 3.2 / 6.3 / 25,328
  • KNVA: .5 / 1 / 3,958

9:45 p.m.

  • KNVA: .3 / .6 / 2,375 (‘KXAN Sports: More Than the Score’)

10 p.m.

  • KXAN: 4.2 / 8.4 / 33,243
  • KVUE: 4 / 8 / 31,660
  • KEYE: 2.8 / 5.5 / 22,162
  • KTBC: 1.9 / 4 / 15,039

 

Tina Shively departs KVUE for new gig

Tina Shively

Tina Shively has filed her last report for KVUE, Austin’s ABC affiliate.

Shively, who joined the station four and a half years ago, is transitioning out of the news business and into the world of public relations, joining local firm Elizabeth Christian Public Relations.

Her first day is Monday.

“I decided to leave TV because I was looking for a new challenge,” Shively said. “I’ve played a lot of roles in TV and am eager to see what the public relations side of the business is all about. I am so excited to be working for Elizabeth Christian. Her team has an amazing reputation here in Austin. They promise there’s always a lot of work to do and that I certainly will not be bored away from news.”

Leaving KVUE was difficult, Shively admits.

“It’s hard to say goodbye to KVUE because this team really is like family,” she said. “In crunch times, we all have come together with no hesitation to get the job done no matter what the situation entails. That is rare.”

Shively initially was KVUE’s morning reporter before shifting to the evening newscasts last year, heading up the station’s Watch Desk, where she monitored social media and tracked breaking news. Shively also regularly filled in on the anchor desk.

“I’d like to thank viewers for always being gracious and kind when I shoved a mic in their face at 5 a.m. and for accepting my mistakes and stumbles with nary a negative word,” she said. “I feel that I have learned a little bit from every story I’ve ever done and I’m really grateful for that. I won’t miss the live shots or the air time, but I will miss the opportunity to listen and share the stories of people who make this beautiful city what it is.”

Prior to Austin, Shively worked behind the scenes for CBS News and as an anchor and reporter in Amarillo and Rochester, N.Y. Combined, she’s logged 17 years in the TV news business.

At Elizabeth Christian Public Relations, she joins a team that includes other former Austin TV news personalities, including Erin Ochoa and Keri Bellacosa.

After health scare, KVUE anchor ready to return to work

Jenni Lee

Jenni Lee was in the middle of anchoring KVUE’s “Weekend Daybreak” when it happened.

Blurry vision. A hellacious headache. Nausea. Something was clearly very, very wrong.

“I couldn’t even read the TelePrompTer,” she said. “I went straight to the ER after that.”

After some tests, doctors told her, in essence, that part of her brain was dangling into her spinal column. Subsequent neurologist visits confirmed she had an ailment known as Chiari Malformation One.

Lee has been off the air since, but after a three-month leave she’s feeling better and ready to return. Look for her to pop up this Saturday and Sunday. Then, after a long-planned trip, she’ll be back on the anchor desk for good.

“All the people who prayed, all the messages … they really do mean the world to me,” she said. “I’m going to choose to believe it worked. They carried me through. I want to thank everyone.”

That includes her husband, in particular, who cared for their son and performed countless other tasks while Lee was bed-ridden.

“He was the backbone of the family,” she said. “When I couldn’t do anything, he did everything.”

Doctors don’t know why the crippling pain has lessened, Lee said. Should it return, the longtime Austin news anchor could be forced to undergo surgery to remove part of her skull, relieving built-up pressure.

“The brain is a big mystery,” she said. “We’re not sure why the symptoms stop or when they could come back.”

One thing that’s not a mystery is what likely triggered the symptoms of Chiari Malformation One. Lee said she was skiing earlier this year when she fell, her head slamming into some ice.

“The symptoms typically present themselves in people in their 20s through 40s after they’ve had a head injury,” Lee said.

While the worst symptoms have largely subsided, Lee said she still is dealing with a number of issues such as pain in her neck and arms and tingling in her hands. She plans to ease her way back into work, with the help of colleague Cori Coffin, who will co-anchor with Lee this weekend to make sure everything goes okay.

“KVUE has been wonderful. They’ve really worked with me,” Lee said. “They’ve done everything possible to make sure my transition is a successful one and, for that, I’m truly thankful.”

Denver TV exec to lead KVUE’s newsroom

Tim Ryan (KVUE photo)

A new boss will soon be calling the shots in the KVUE newsroom.

The city’s ABC affiliate has hired Tim Ryan to serve as news director.

Ryan arrives from KUSA, the NBC affiliate in Denver, where he’s been assistant news director since 2000.

Both KUSA and KVUE are owned by Tegna.

Ryan replaces Mike Redding, who is departing after less than a year on the job for another position with Tegna.

“Tim has been on the forefront of innovation and excellence at KUSA,” KVUE president and general manager Kristie Gonzales said. “We’re happy to have his immense skillset in the building to continue the ratings and digital momentum at KVUE.”

Prior to Denver, Ryan worked as an anchor, reporter, photographer, producer and assignment editor at TV stations in Wichita, Kan., and Fort Smith, Ark.

Ryan has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism and a master’s from the University of Colorado at Denver.

May TV ratings: KXAN, KVUE split the wins

The ‘Daybreak’ team: Erika Lopez, left, Yvonne Nava, Bryan Mays and Anavid Reyes (KVUE photo)

In the race to keep you informed before you head to work or school each morning, two Austin TV stations are duking it out for first place.

ABC affiliate KVUE and NBC affiliate KXAN have been relatively close in the pre-dawn hours for the past several years, with KXAN winning most head-to-head competitions. May was different, though, with KVUE taking the top spot at 4:30 a.m., 5 a.m. and 6 a.m., according to Nielsen.

“This win was all about teamwork,” KVUE president and general manager Kristie Gonzales said. “From the producers and staff behind the scenes, to the team you wake up to every morning, each person put their heart and soul into making ‘Daybreak’ the best morning newscast in Austin.”

KVUE also was home to the top-rated midday newscast.

Evenings, KXAN continues to be the station to beat, dominating at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. “KXAN News at 6,” for instance, draws more viewers than the second- and third-place stations combined.

In primetime, NBC was No. 1, followed by CBS, ABC, Fox, The CW and then MyNetworkTV.

May Nielsen ratings

Each ratings point equals 7,712 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.

4:30 a.m.

  • KVUE: .8 / 10 / 6,170
  • KTBC: .3 / 4.3 / 2,314
  • KXAN: .3 / 3.6 / 2,314
  • KEYE: .2 / 2.5 / 1,542

5 a.m.

  • KVUE: 1.2 / 12.5 / 9,254
  • KXAN: .9 / 9.6 / 6,941
  • KTBC: .7 / 7.6 / 5,398
  • KEYE: .6 / 6.1 / 4,627

6 a.m.

  • KVUE: 2.3 / 15.2 / 17,738
  • KXAN: 2.1 / 14 / 16,195
  • KTBC: 1.6 / 10.8 / 12,339
  • KEYE: .8 / 5.3 / 6,170

7 a.m.

  • KTBC: 2.1 / 10.9 / 16,195
  • KNVA: .3 / 1.5 / 2,314

8 a.m.

  • KTBC: 1.9 / 8.6 / 14,653

9 a.m.

  • KTBC: 1.6 / 7.3 / 12,339
  • KEYE: .8 / 3.6 / 6,170 (‘We Are Austin’)

11 a.m.

  • KVUE: 2.2 / 9.5 / 16,966
  • KXAN: .8 / 3.4 / 6,170 (‘Studio 512’)

Noon

  • KXAN: 1.5 / 6 / 11,568
  • KTBC: 1 / 4.2 / 7,712

5 p.m.

  • KXAN: 4.9 / 13.6 / 37,789
  • KVUE: 3.9 / 10.9 / 30,077
  • KTBC: 2.5 / 6.8 / 19,280
  • KEYE: 1.3 / 3.7 / 10,026

6 p.m.

  • KXAN: 6.2 / 15.2 / 47,814
  • KVUE: 4.4 / 10.8 / 33,933
  • KEYE: 1.6 / 3.8 / 12,339

6:30 p.m.

  • KEYE: 1.7 / 4.1 / 13,110

9 p.m.

  • KTBC: 2.6 / 4.9 / 20,051
  • KNVA: .9 / 1.8 / 6,941

9:45 p.m.

  • KNVA: .8 / 1.4 / 6,170 (‘KXAN Sports: More Than the Score’)

10 p.m.

  • KXAN: 5.3 / 10.8 / 40,874
  • KVUE: 3.5 / 7.1 / 26,992
  • KEYE: 2.5 / 5.1 / 19,280
  • KTBC: 1.9 / 3.9 / 14,653

 

KVUE adds co-anchor for Sunday evening newscasts

Kris Betts and Brandon Jones (John Gusky photos / KVUE)

KVUE is beefing up its weekend news team with the addition of a new co-anchor.

Reporter Brandon Jones is now joining Kris Betts on the anchor desk for the station’s newscasts at 5:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. Sundays. Their first show together was last night.

Betts had been anchoring solo on the weekends, and she’ll continue to do so on Saturday nights.

Jones spent the past three months filling in for Betts while she was out on maternity leave, so weekend viewers are already well acquainted with him.

Betts joined KVUE in 2013; Jones arrived at the city’s ABC affiliate in 2015.