Palm Springs’ new CBS affiliate is aiming high

Jul 22, 2002  •  Post A Comment

With only two months to get his new CBS affiliate in Palm Springs, Calif., up and running, Bill Evans exudes confidence: He expects to take first place in the November book.
“Quite honestly, because of our knowledge of the marketplace I plan on winning in November,” said Mr. Evans, general manager of the KPSP-TV, which is owned by Desert Television. “I think the way TV news is done in this market gives us a great opportunity to come in and do it differently.”
Mr. Evans believes he knows the street because he has worked as a general manager in the Palm Springs market at the Fox, WB and ABC stations, which operate jointly.
Mr. Evans says the new station, slated to launch Sept. 2, will capture first place quickly because of the three-pronged approach he is putting in place at KPSP. The station will blast off with a $13 million state-of-the art facility, an innovative approach to sales and a slate of ultra-localized programming.
Mr. Evans said one of the keys is hiring experienced personnel, such as KPSP reporter David Garcia, who worked in the Los Angeles market for 25 years, and main anchor Roger Cooper, who worked at the all-news cable channel Orange County News Channel.
“So many news organizations are cutting out experienced people, and that has to do with money. I chose to go the other way, and I believe the viewer will respond to more experienced people doing news,” he said.
KPSP’s competitors are not worried, however. “That’s a very ambitious goal to be No. 1 by the November book,” said Larry Blackerby, VP and general manager for NBC affiliate KMIR-TV. “But I think competition is good and that long term it could grow our market, from a revenue perspective. It gives more opportunity for national buyers to get in and grow the market,” he said.
In fact, the introduction of a CBS affiliate is evidence the Palm Springs market has grown up over the past few years, said Bob Allen, executive VP of Gulf California Broadcast Co., which operates the Fox, WB and ABC affiliates in Palm Springs. “I think it’s a tribute to the Palm Springs market that we now have a full complement of network affiliates,” he said.
When KPSP begins broadcasting Sept. 2 the station will wade right in with four hours per day of original local programming-with a morning show from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. as well as 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts. To account for that final half-hour KPSP will produce a 6:30 p.m. magazine show on arts and entertainment. “It will be a live show, like a local `Entertainment Tonight.’ The whole desert is about arts and entertainment. We have celebrities and people from around the world,” Mr. Evans said.
His vision for the station extends beyond the programming. He’s made the unusual decision to forgo the use of a national rep firm for ad sales. Commission rates were unfavorable, and a rep firm team for market No. 161 would likely be entry-level, he said. Instead, he employs a seven-person-strong sales force and a sales manager to sell local, regional and national ads. “With technology the way it is-electronic ordering, fax machines-I think we can be just as effective without a rep firm. I think we can do a better job talking to national and regional accounts about our product, because nobody knows it better than we do,” he said.
As of late June the team had been on the street for two weeks and had already sold out the CBS NFL package.
The station’s newsroom is being built from the ground up as a completely digital facility. KPSP will use Grass Valley’s Group’s Profile servers for commercials and news and AP’s ENPS for a newsroom computer system, said Tom Mann, president and CEO of Weyrcliffe-Century in Palm Springs and Las Vegas, consulting engineers for TV and radio stations. Final Cut Pro will be used for production and postproduction. The station will rely on Philips Thomson LDK-6000 cameras, which enable both standard- and high-definition pictures. Master control is automated using Sundance Digital products.
KPSP is a low-power station that previously broadcast old movies. Before the pending September debut, Palm Springs residents and visitors are receiving CBS programming from the Los Angeles affiliate. Since Palm Springs has a 97 percent cable penetration rate, KPSP’s programming will reach 97 percent of the market despite the station’s being low power, Mr. Evans said.