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KOCE Sets New PBS Schedule, Rebrands

To ease the upheaval in public TV in Los Angeles, KOCE, now calling itself PBS SoCal, is allowing other area PBS outlets to air shows and has created a website so viewers can easily find their favorites.

Orange County, Calif.’s KOCE, slated to become the principal PBS station in the sprawling Los Angeles area beginning next month, will rebrand itself PBS SoCal.

Starting Thursday, it also launched a website aimed at helping local viewers find the most popular public broadcasting programs, most of which will switch from KCET to KOCE.

The recasting of southern California public TV is necessary because KCET, the principle PBS station for the last 40 years, announced months ago that it would drop its PBS affiliation claiming that its PBS dues were assessed unfairly high.

KOCE President-CEO Mel Rogers held a press conference Thursday to outline PBS SoCal’s plans.

Along with KOCE, which serves Orange County, other regional PBS stations include KLCS Los Angeles and KVCR San Bernardino.

After KOCE becomes the dominant carrier, the other stations will carry a few shows usually found on core PBS channels. KVCR will air Nightly Business Report and Charlie Rose. KLCS will air Independent Lens. Viewers can go to http://www.pbssocal.org to figure out what’s where.

BRAND CONNECTIONS

But in a departure from the past, all the regional PBS stations will cross-promote and KOCE is allowing the other stations to replay current PBS series just a day after their KOCE airdate, and air as many PBS series as they can afford. Usually, the PBS rule is that a secondary PBS station has to wait eight days, and is limited to 25% of the PBS schedule.

At his press conference, Rogers said the departure of KCET and the realignment of the other stations is still something of a shock. “The general mood can best be described as bewilderment,” he said. “All of us assumed at the end of the day something would be worked out. But the fact is, there wasn’t.”

Rogers said he thought KCET  “walked away from what I believe is the best media brand and best media content in the country.”

In a phone interview, Rogers said KOCE had been working on a $10 million a year budget. He expects that will reach as high as $12 million next year, and eventually around $20 million. By comparison, he guessed the much more established KCET, had an operating budget of $60 million.

But he says that without spending much at all to alert viewers to the impending switch, word has gotten around. He said the station has received unsolicited viewer donations from people who said they had previously contributed to KCET.

Otherwise, the best evidence he has is ratings. “I’ll tell you one anecdote that I would trust,” Rogers said. “One thing we’re doing pre-Jan. 1 is we’re airing Masterpiece on Sunday night. KCET decided a month or two ago that they were going to put movies on and not do Masterpiece. So we took it. We used to get a 0.3 rating on Sunday night. KCET got a 1 rating with Masterpiece. We had three days notice on this switch and wondered if the audience would find us. Well, the first night out of the gate we bumped up to a 1. The next week we were at a 1.2. I shouldn’t report KCET’s ratings, but they were far less.”

KOCE will become the new home of American Masters, Tavis Smiley, Frontline and Nova among others. It will also provide World TV, a nonfiction, science, news, current affairs and documentary channel, via cable.

To its Orange County views, KOCE will continue Inside OC with Rick Reiff and Real Orange on its multicast ch. 50.2

The station also will move its headquarters from Huntington Beach to Costa Mesa. That was a move planned before KCET decided to bolt.


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