Broadcasting chief Marci Burdick says the Wichita CBS affiliate the company is acquiring is the “go-to” station in a solid market, but its upside is in multicasting and the Web.
Schurz Communications sees plenty of upside in KWCH, the CBS affiliate in Wichita, Kan., that it just agreed to buy from Media General for $73 million. But the growth will not necessarily come from selling more spots for more money.
“The Internet and multicasting,ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â says Marci Burdick, Schurz’s broadcasting chief, when asked to identify the opportunities.
The station just launched a digital weather channel, which should draw well in “tornado alley,ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â she says. It’s in the “early stages with benefits yet to be realized.ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â
Burdick’s enthusiasm for multicasting stems from Schurz’s experience at its NBC affiliate in Springfield, Mo., KYTV. It was, Burdick believes, the second station in the country to use a digital channel to broadcast UPN, soon to be replaced by CW. “That was profitable by year two,ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â she said. “This year, it launched [NBC] Weather Plus. It was profitable when it hit the air.ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â
Her focus on new media is sharpened by her involvement with the NBC affiliate board, of which she is the current chairman. In addition to KYTV, Schurz also owns the NBC affiliate in Augusta, Ga., WAGT (DMA 115).
Burdick praises NBC for its willingness to partner with the affiliates in new-media enterprises. “That seems to be working better than any of us had hoped,ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â she says. “They have been very positive in their approach, and see the affiliates as a benefit in that regard.ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â
In addition to NBC Weather Plus, the network and the affiliates have come up with the NBC Broadband Co., a joint venture that will operate a Web site that aggregates content from NBC, the affiliates and users. That service is still under development.
Despite its new-media potential, what attracted Schurz to WKCH was its old-media performance, Burdick says.
“Everybody wants the rapid-growth markets, but this is a market leader in a stable area of the country,ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â she says. “As the market leader, it is the go-to place for advertisers and viewers.ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â
Burdick doesn’t anticipate any changes in the management. “It’s a very solid ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¦ team,ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â she says. “It’s one of the things that really impressed us.ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â
Schurz is an active TV station buyer, Burdick says, even though KWCH is its first acquisition since it bought KYTV in 1987.
That there are not more stations in Schurz’s TV portfolio is not for lack of trying, Burdick says. “We have been the bridesmaid more times than I care to count,ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â she says. “We’ve looked at a lot of them that either didn’t work for us or we weren’t the successful bidder for whatever reason.ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â
Schurz has been more successful in other media, she says, noting that in the last two months it has bought newspapers in South Dakota and Michigan and a six-station radio group in South Dakota.
Because the Wichita DMA is vast, one of the biggest in the nation, KWCH comes with three VHF satellite stations—KBSD, KDSH and KBSL—that extend the service.
Upnn FCC approval of the deal and closing, KWCH would become Schurz’s largest market station. The post-closing lineup:
- KWCH Wichita-Hutchinson, Kan. (CBS, DMA 67)
- WDBJ Roanoke-Lynchburg, Va. (CBS, DMA 68)
- KYTV Springfield, Mo (NBC, DMA 77)
- WSBT-TV South Bend-Elkhart, Ind. (CBS, DMA 87)
- WAGT Augusta, Ga. (NBC, DMA 115)
Burdick suggests that it will not be another 20 years before the next TV deal. “It’s nice being a private company these days,ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â she says. “People aren’t sure what you are up to. Then, when you hit the trades, people wonder how you spell the name.ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â