KAUT Starts Rebuilding Process

Article excerpt

After idling for nine months, KAUT Channel 43 has restarted its engines, eager to rebuild its market strength, according to General Manager Harlan Reams.

The independent television station, owned by Heritage Media Corp. of Dallas, has hired eight new employees in the last two months, including Reams, bringing its staff total to 30. The affiliate of Fox Broadcasting Co. of Los Angeles also expects to spend more than $2 million in the next year on programming purchases, he said.

"We hope to surpass 1988 (sales) levels locally by the fourth quarter," Reams said.

The station then will position itself to regain sales as high as 1987, the peak year in local advertising revenues for KAUT to date, he said. KAUT's affiliation with Fox will bolster the independent station's efforts, Reams said.

The infusion of employees and new programming comes after the failure of a plan announced in July 1988 to sell KAUT to California Broadcaster Harry J. Pappas as part of a $30 million deal involving the sale of Oklahoma City's three independent television stations.

KAUT had been chosen to become the authority's second educational station for a one year trial period. That brought an erosion of sales as a result of uncertainty over the station's future, Reams said.

Unsure of KAUT's future, 16 employees left the station to work at other Heritage stations in February, Reams said. This reduced the station's staff of 38 to 22.

"When the deal fell through, we decided we weren't going to turn out the lights and go home," Reams said. "Heritage is made up of businessmen first and broadcasters second."

Last year was a tough one for independent television stations, Reams noted. KAUT's national advertising revenues plummeted 50 percent from 1987, while local revenues in 1988 dropped 25 percent.

A more recent report shows May advertising revenues dropped 10 percent from May 1988, Reams said. Nationally, May revenues declined 45 percent from the same month last year. Much of the national decline was a result of losses to religious broadcasting stations, he said.

But lack of new programming costs and cuts in staff reduced KAUT's expenses, which offset the decrease in revenues over the last nine months, Reams said.

"We didn't lose anything," he said.

KAUT, located at 11901 N. Eastern Ave., is back in the business of buying new programming and promoting it, he said. It is scheduled to begin airing a third night of original prime time programming on Sept. 11, as part of its effort to attain seven days of prime time programming in about two years, Reams said.

Only 15 percent of new programs survive in the television broadcast industry, Reams said.

"It a volatile market," he said "We have to develop six hours of programming for every two hours that airs."

By 1991, Fox hopes to be the nation's fourth television network behind ABC, NBC and CBS, Reams said.

Fox, owned by Fox Communications, is affiliated with 126 independent television stations nationally in 90 percent of the nation.

"This (network affiliation) would give the station more national publicity and an identifiable position in the market," he said. But Reams said he doesn't expect KAUT to achieve a true affiliate relationship with Fox Communications for about 10 years, when KAUT hopes to offer soap operas, weekend sports coverage, late night programming and national news. …