FILE / STAR-BULLETIN
KGMB is recruiting news anchors, reporters and producers for a new morning news show. Above, the studio in February.
KGMB-TV to add a morning news show
It ends a hiring freeze even as talks to sell its studio site fall through
Hawaii's CBS affiliate is planning a morning news show, and has begun recruiting on-air and off-air personnel to staff it.
The station has no firm start date, but has purchased new equipment and is exploring set designs, according to Rick Blangiardi, senior vice president and general manager.
KGMB is in the process of being sold by Emmis Communications Corp. to HITV Operating Co. Inc. in a deal to close this summer.
Morning news is a new growth area for local television stations, according to industry publications and media consultant BIA Financial Network.
Separately, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs late Tuesday terminated negotiations to buy the land under the station's Kapiolani Boulevard studios. The OHA Board of Trustees last year voted down a trustee's proposal to buy both the station and the land.
KGMB-TV is recruiting two news anchors, a weather anchor, a reporter and producers for a new morning news show.
There is an internal timetable for inaugurating the broadcast, but because many aspects must yet be solidified, such as shipping dates for newly purchased equipment, the start date will not immediately be announced, said Rick Blangiardi, senior vice president and general manager.
"We've been working on it for months ... we're gonna go after this," he said yesterday.
The go-ahead comes after a long hiring freeze instituted when Indiana-based Emmis Communications Corp. put KGMB and its other TV stations on the block in 2005. Its February sale to HITV Operating Co. Inc., an affiliate of Virginia-based MCG Capital Corp., is to close this summer.
"This is a great indication of what's ahead for us. We're hiring, we're expanding and we're buying," said News Director Chris Archer. "Here we come."
Its last local morning show aired in the mid-1990s, under then-owner Lee Enterprises Inc. of Iowa, but it has aired network news since taking the local show off the air around 1996.
"Morning news has become really important as people tend to commute earlier," said Mark Fratrik, vice president of BIA Financial Network, a Virginia-based advisory and investment resources firm for the media and telecommunications industries.
Shows often begin at 5 or 5:30 a.m., but at least one station in Chicago begins its local news at 4:30 a.m., he said.
Viewers could tune in to 24-hour news networks, "but people want their weather, they want local news. There is an appetite for local news at that time."
Fratrik was "very impressed" that HITV is making a commitment which could run several hundreds of thousands of dollars or more. It is a reflection of the new owners' "ideas about how they're going to improve the fortunes of the station."
With hundreds of channels available on cable and via satellite, "what distinguishes your local station is not Law & Order reruns," but "more local news and local programming," he said.
The employment page on the KGMB Web site still refers and links to Emmis' site, as the sale to HITV has not closed. The on- and off-camera job ads are posted elsewhere, such as the Craigslist Web site.
NO LAND DEAL
HITV bought KGMB after other offers were either unsuccessful or never got off the ground, including an Office of Hawaiian Affairs proposal to buy the station and its 41,000 square feet of land at 1534 Kapiolani Blvd.
HITV later approached OHA about buying just the land, but those negotiations were terminated Tuesday afternoon, said Clyde Namuo, OHA Administrator.
OHA trustees authorized the administration to make an offer, which it did, at $12 million, with a lease-back provision that would cover OHA's debt service, Namuo said. HITV made a counter-offer which OHA countered again, with an April 12 response deadline. None was received, even a week after the deadline.
"Where the deal fell apart was, we couldn't come to a meeting of the minds on the lease-back provision."
OHA "issued a letter (Tuesday) saying we are terminating all further negotiations with them ... it's not a deal that's going to happen," Namuo said.
"It's not that they weren't great folks to work with," as they will be "operating KGMB in a very community-oriented way. This was strictly a business venture for us," he said.
HITV officials did not respond to inquiries about the land transaction. Namuo left the door open for another attempt at a deal, which would require authorization from the trustees.