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KTXD parts ways with D but otherwise shifts into expansion mode with The Broadcast still very much in play


Current hosts of D: The Broadcast on KTXD-TV: (from left) Lisa Pineiro, Pat Smith, Suzie Humphreys and Courtney Kerr. Photo: Ed Bark

D Magazine’s initial visions of a local TV empire have turned into sand castles with Monday’s announcement that it no longer will be a part of KTXD-TV’s (Ch. 47) centerpiece morning show.

D: The Broadcast, airing from 9 to 11 a.m. weekdays on KTXD, indeed will drop the D from its title after the Sept. 20th telecast. But that’s not the big story, Dallas-based London Broadcasting executive vice president Phil Hurley said in a telephone interview Tuesday morning.

London Broadcasting, owner of KTXD and stations covering 7 of Texas’ 19 TV markets, will immediately begin syndicating The Broadcast on Sept. 23rd, Hurley said. Also, a few extra hosts likely will be added beyond the current foursome of Lisa Pineiro, Suzie Humphreys, Pat Smith and Courtney Kerr.

“We want a mix,” Hurley said. “Right now we’re in negotiations with all of the current hosts to extend their deals. But we’re probably going to have six or seven hosts so that we can rotate demographically in the show. As far as making a major decision in changing the overall ages of the host, we may stay the way we are.”

KTXD intends to add at least one male voice to The Broadcast, which also will air on London Broadcasting-owned stations in Waco, Tyler, Abilene, San Angelo, Beaumont and Corpus Christi. The station’s The Texas Daily (currently airing at 6 p.m. and repeated at 9:30 p.m.) also will be syndicated in those markets, Hurley said.

Both programs “are in our long-term plans and they are already profitable,” Hurley said, with D: The Broadcast “starting to get pretty dedicated viewing. A lot of days we’re pretty competitive in the female demographic. But we’re selling a concept and a relationship show. And it’s not that difficult to sell . . . We want to expand that female demographic to a more broader appeal.”

The Monday through Friday D-FW Nielsen ratings show Texas Daily drawing at least a minimal audience on most days while D: The Broadcast almost always registers “hashmarks” (no measurable viewership).

In Monday’s rating, D: The Broadcast had hashmarks in total viewers and in women aged 18 to 49 and women 25 to 54. Texas Daily, which rotates a group of seasoned “pundits” (led by former WFAA8 mainstays Tracy Rowlett and Troy Dungan), had 5,507 total viewers for the 6 p.m. first-run hour and 2,065 viewers for the 9:30 p.m. repeat. It had no measurable audience, however, in the two principal female demographic groups.

Hurley said that KTXD has always paid all salaries and expenses associated with D: The Broadcast. So he was a “little confused” by a “D: The Broadcast, R.I.P.” post on the magazine’s FrontBurner blog by D senior writer and former chief editor Tim Rogers.

“The hard truth is that when we got into this relationship, we had certain expectations about revenue,” Rogers wrote Monday. “Those expectations weren’t satisfied. Perhaps that’s because our audience isn’t watching TV at 9 in the morning, which we suspected all along but became more and more convinced of during the six months that we’ve worked together.”

Hurley said that D never paid a nickel for D: The Broadcast but did promote the show in a partnership that was supposed to benefit both parties.

“I didn’t know what Tim was talking about,” he said. “We had a promotional partnership. But we never shared expenses and we certainly never shared revenue with D..”

D Magazine’s’s pursuit of a younger demographic “turned out to be too narrow for us,” Hurley said. “But they wanted to extend their brand and we wanted to extend our promotion. It really was a good partnership, but they don’t have any interests outside of Dallas or in a wider demographic.”

KTXD, an affiliate of the ME-TV network, still primarily has a menu of evergreen TV series aimed at older baby boomer viewers. Texas Daily is targeted directly at that audience, but D: The Broadcast continues to be an odd demographic fit. The program initially followed Daniel Boone reruns on KTXD when it premiered on Feb. 18th with next to no promotion.

In a FrontBurner post that went up three hours after Rogers’ announcement, D Magazine Partners chairman Wick Allison said that “KTXD’s willingness to experiment with us on a D-branded show shows how visionary it is in its approach to local broadcasting. They have big plans for the show that I think will be very successful, but which fall outside our targeted audience. They encouraged us to stick our toe into television, and we’re glad they did. We love the medium, and we think there are great opportunities for expanding our reach in television.”

Hurley said that D: The Broadcast is at least marginally profitable because “we sell the show based on who’s on the show. We sell sponsorships in the show. We sell spots that cover the entire day-part. Sponsors buy a schedule on the station, and their spots may not just air on D: The Broadcast, but on other shows as well.”

An earlier failed D television program -- D Living -- copied WFAA8’s Good Morning Texas approach by selling paid segments to advertisers who then came on the show to pitch their products in interview settings. But KTXD later abandoned that approach. “We try to shy away from being the Channel 8 show,” Hurley said, contending that viewers eventually tire of seeing strings of mini-informercials.

GMT has continued in that vein, even with the recent addition of former WFAA8 news room staffer Mike “Why Guy” Castellucci as a co-host. Tuesday’s program included “Promotional Consideration” in-show segments for WinStar World Casino, Southland Allergy and Asthma, and the Center For Spine Care.

GMT’s printed disclaimers, which are briefly shown near the end of each show, say that “any mention of products or services is for informational purposes only.” Still, GMT hosts tend to lavish praise on these products and services. On Tuesday, for instance, co-host Paige McCoy Smith greeted Dr. John Peloza of the Center for Spine Care by telling him, “You have consistently been voted as one of the best doctors in Dallas.”

After Peloza used props to demonstrate some surgical procedures, Smith told him, “That’s fantastic. Well, this is great information.”

But GMT also has something D: The Broadcast usually doesn’t: measurable Nielsen ratings. Competing directly with the first hour of the KTXD program, GMT drew 55,074 total viewers Monday to finish second in the 9 a.m. hour behind the third hour of NBC’s Today Show, which had 82,610 viewers. And GMT tied for first place at 9 a.m., with Fox4’s syndicated Kelly & Michael, among advertiser-prized 18-to-49-year-olds.

Hurley figures that The Broadcast in syndicated form can only improve its revenue picture by being available to 41 percent of Texas homes via London Broadcasting stations. KTXD also has big plans for Texas Daily, which besides Rowlett, Dungan and Humphreys includes host Jeff Brady and rotating “pundits” John Criswell, Iola Johnson, Scott Murray, Debbie Denmon, Midge Hill, Gary Cogill, Phyllis Watson, Jolene DeVito, Robert Riggs and John Sparks.

“We’re in the process of negotiating with them right now,” Hurley said. “We hope all of ‘em are back” when Texas Daily is syndicated.

Rowlett,, who generally appears on the Monday and Tuesday editions with Dungan, would be a basically essential ingredient in Texas Daily’s expansion plans. And after some initial reservations and an inclination to fully retire, Rowlett says he’s now inclined to stick around.

No offers have been made by KTXD yet, but “I think it is fair to say that things are looking up,” he said via email. “They are negotiating to get us up in HD on all the stations and are bringing in a new anchor desk to improve the look of the show.”

The Texas Daily premiered on October 1st of last year as KTXD’s first major locally produced program. The D Magazine partnership is now in its lame duck stages, but the station otherwise is spreading its wings and managing to stay airborne while readying a new and ambitious flight plan.

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