KOCE goes primary
after KCET goes nuclear

Published in Current, Oct. 18, 2010
By Dru Sefton

Mel Rogers of KOCEKOCE will undergo a lot of changes before Jan. 1, when it steps from behind KCET’s shadow to become the primary PBS affiliate in the nation’s second-largest media market.

“It’s still sinking in,” station President Mel Rogers told Current from the station in Huntington Beach, Calif. “I have a notebook I’m carrying around, writing down things to do.”
Everything there changed around 1 p.m. Friday, Oct. 8 [2010].

ogers was driving between meetings. His assistant called, saying he needed to return to the station because a reporter from Southern California Public Radio wanted to speak with him about KCET’s press release. “I said, ‘Well, I can’t comment on a press release I haven’t seen,”’ Rogers said.
“I got my head around the reality of the situation about 1:20 that afternoon,” he said. “I got back to the station, phones lit up and the media started calling.”

KOCE was the natural choice to become the major PBS presence in the area. KVCR in San Bernardino doesn’t have the necessary signal reach. KLCS is an educational station. And KOCE has the largest operation of the three.
PBS President Paula Kerger said KOCE “graciously stepped forward” as the new primary. She said network staffers were at KOCE the week following the announcement, and that support will continue. “We’re working very closely with Mel and the board,” she said.

Kerger isn’t worried about losing national underwriting by replacing KCET’s viewership with the smaller KOCE’s. “The numbers are closer than you’d think,” she said. Both stations have towers atop Mount Wilson, overlooking much of the region. According to TRAC Media, between Oct. 1, 2009, and Sept. 30, 2010, KCET’s average primetime rating was .50; KOCE’s was .24, with much less PBS programming. KCET’s May 2010 average weekly cume was 1.3 million; KOCE’s, 792,000.

A major issue for KOCE is dues. Rogers told Current that the $10 million operation pays PBS around $1 million as a PDP part-time member; that cost could double for KOCE as the region’s primary. PBS and KOCE managers “haven’t yet had that discussion,” he said. “It costs more to be the primary, but that also assumes that if you’re the lead PBS station, more revenue will be flowing to you.”

Converting a longtime PDP station to primary status affects everything from staffing to transmitters. Overhauling the entire program schedule “is probably the easiest part,” Rogers said.

Rogers said the station needs a presence in Los Angeles; right now, KOCE offices are in Orange County, about 40 miles away. And that has to be built from scratch. “We’ve always tried not to encroach on KCET territory in major gifts and philanthropic donations,” he said. Now KOCE has to reverse course as quickly as possible.

“We need to reinvent our strategic plan, hire a firm to message and re-brand,” Rogers said. “We have a funding campaign under way, and we’ll have to shift its focus.”
Then there’s the issue of Santa Barbara, 130 miles up the coast from KOCE, which now receives its PBS service from KCET. “The assumption is we’ll get a translator and do it,” Rogers said. Kerger said other possibilities for that city include cable or satellite carriage.

“We’ll roll things out as we can afford to,” Rogers said. “A lot of people are already calling asking how to support this.”
“I’m really not worried,” he added. “We may have timing challenges, but this will all work nicely.”

News release: KOCE to Lead Continuation of PBS in LA Market

HUNTINGTON BEACH, CALIF. (October 11, 2010) — Following Friday’s announcement that KCET will cut ties with PBS at the end of this year, Orange County-based KOCE has announced it will step forward to ensure full and ongoing PBS access throughout the greater Los Angeles Market. Other local public stations, KLCS and KVCR will join KOCE in delivering the full compliment of PBS shows throughout the region.

"At KOCE we are saddened to learn of the departure of KCET from the PBS family effective January 1st. The good news for all of us who live in this region is that thanks to KOCE, as well as our partner PBS stations, KLCS and KVCR, quality PBS shows will continue to be available, without interruption, throughout the LA television market,” according to KOCE CEO, Mel Rogers. “KOCE will assume the PBS common carriage obligations and work with our partner stations to ensure that PBS shows are not only available, but are easy to find for our viewers. PBS fans can rest assured their shows will not go away, and that at KOCE, we will do what is needed to make sure that is the case.”

Rogers said KOCE’s service to Orange County will remain unchanged. ”For more than a decade, the people and businesses of Orange County have generously supported KOCE’s commitment to Orange County news and information programming. As KOCE assumes the mantle of lead PBS station serving all of Southern California, we will continue to be the one channel that never ignores OC issues, people and events. Additionally, our commitment to our separately programmed OC Channel, which features all Orange County content all the time, will strengthen even as KOCE assumes a new role of broad service to the rest of the region."

More information will be available in the coming months at koce.org.

Web page posted Oct. 20, 2010
Copyright 2010 by Current LLC


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