Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Three for 3: Suggestions for Getting KM3 Out of the Hole (Part 2 of 2)

With Channel 3's ratings stuck in the basement, the station faces a challenge, to say the least. Back in the summer of 2003, General Manager Jim McKernan told Omaha B2B magazine that he "would be disappointed if we weren’t at least number two in overall news viewership" within two years. Well, the two years is almost up and things for the station are the same, if not worse.

The question is, what can be done to change it? As promised, we present three ideas that would go a long way toward getting KMTV back in the hunt:

Suggestion #1: Reduce Travis Justice's visibility. When the decision was made to remove sports as an obligatory part of the newscast, McKernan decided it'd be a good idea to have Travis sound off on the news of the day. So now we get to hear what Travis thinks about Omaha annexing Elkhorn, cardinals selecting a new Pope, Callahan starting a new quarterback: you name it, and Travis has an opinion on it.

"Travis has a very strong extemporaneous skill that some people in television don’t have,” McKernan is quoted as saying in the aforementiond B2B article.

That may be true, but he also has another thing that "some people in television" lack: a knack for repelling viewers. Since he was hired in 2002, ratings have plummeted. Okay, determining causality is dicey business, BUT even assuming that he's driving no viewers away, "For What It's Worth" isn't worth what it's supposedly for: increasing viewership. People aren't flocking to KM3 News because they're hungry for Travis' latest pronouncement.

As we've mentioned before, Justice does have some talent, but it's being misused. When it comes to sports— particularly live sports coverage, he may be the best in this market. Unfortunately, the station has so closely tied itself to his annoying "For What It's Worth" blowhard image that keeping him around in any capacity might do damage. Perhaps if they confine him doing to his Sunday night sports show and serving as a karaoke judge at Harrah's, viewers' memories of his opinionizing would fade. That part's the tougher call. But however they deal with him, the powers at 3 need to make a bold statement to show that Travis isn't their mascot anymore.

Suggestion #2: Increase the Sarahs' visibility. Meteorologist Sarah Walters knows her stuff and delivers it in an engaging, friendly manner without seeming either hysterical (like Jim Flowers) or bland (like Bill Randby). Putting her out front strikes us as a no-lose proposition. Making her a more visible presence on the weekday newscasts (perhaps Omaha's first female chief meteorologist?) would give KM3's news a distinctive, pleasant flavor.

The other Sarah we need to see more of is current weekend anchor Sarah Simmons, who could easily be the lead female anchor at any station in Omaha. Her bosses need to find a way to integrate her into the regular nightly newscasts. She's that good. We're not sure where you put her, with Deb Ward already ensconced as a satisfactory anchor, but this is where McKernan and his superiors need to get creative. Having a talent of Simmons' caliber join Ward and Greg Peterson would give KMTV perhaps its best anchor team ever. Add Walters to the mix and you're looking at a powerful lineup.

Suggestion #3: Give the news set a complete makeover. You'd be hard-pressed to discern that KMTV has the newest building of the four stations in Omaha. Both WOWT and KETV have been in their current locations since at least the 1960s, while KM3 built its facilities in the late 70s. But flip on the TV and Channel 3's set appears dark and cramped, as if the ceilings are about 6 feet high. Meanwhile, KETV broadcasts from what seems to be a spacious "Newsplex" (gag) and WOWT's set, while appearing less spacious, is noticeably brighter.

Management at Channel 3 needs to make fixing the set a top priority, and that means spending money on a top-notch design. Getting some lights in there and making use of the horizontal and vertical space available are musts. When your building is one of your few advantages, it's downright foolish not to make the most of it. If that means shoving something else into a smaller space, so be it. Have Travis do his sports show on folding chairs in the lobby. Whatever. Make the news studio look like a warm, inviting space, and viewers will be more likely to want to visit.

Channel 3 is doing a lot of things right. The anchor talent is top-notch, and as noted yesterday, the reporting is also a strong point. Likewise, the videographers at the station do some pretty creative work on even the most mundane stories. The three moves we've proposed here, if well-executed and promoted, could make the former home to Brokaw, Kalber, and Roberts a force to be reckoned with.


RogerJohnson said...

I think the only thing Channel 3rd can do at this point is officially sign off the air for good. Rebuild the studio, Change there station call letters and number. Hire all new talent and try again! Just a suggestion.

ChickMick said...

Is Deb Ward expecting or was it just an illusion? Last night she looked pregnant (however I've seen her in public and know that she has an odd body type and is actually v. thin)... just thinking that if she goes on maternity leave that could give Sarah Simmons plenty of time in the spotlight anchoring w/Greg.

Ted Brockman said...

Can't imagine she's pregnant, because she's in her late 40's, but we noticed the same thing a couple of nights ago.

Jeice84 said...

What would the oma news crew think if KETV dumped Omarossa and hired Sarah Simmons. Would that be a wise move?


Ted Brockman said...

It would be a stroke of genius. Even if they had to sit her out for six months due to a non-compete clause, it'd be worth their while.

Magnus said...

While not exactly my very favorite local tv talent, I do have to say that Travis, and his segment, tends to bring issues to my attenion that I may not otherwise think about. It gets me to form an opinion on these issues whether I agree with Travis or not, often serving as a reminder that it really is important to get out and vote when the elections roll around. To me, voter appathy really is a sad thing.

janetdoe said...

In all reality, things are so bad in the ratings form KMTV that they need to consider doing what is done in Russia(I think). Have the anchors strip as the newscast progresses. "KM3 Naked News". Of course, they would have to bring on some younger anchors for obvious reasons.

blogboy said...

I can't figure out why people don't see how they are being fooled by the hype of all those other stations.KMTV channel 3 brings you just the news and not stories like killer tomatoes with lead that rip you off with your home inspection and fox 42 isn't even a real news station so don't even bother with them.

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