Those who haven’t yet perceived the shift should soon, according to Mark Danielson, general manager of KEYT News, Santa Barbara’s ABC affiliate station.
At the time, the parent company alluded to a shared-services arrangement between KEYT and Cowles Media-owned KCOY-TV, the Central Coast’s FOX-affiliate station that operates out of Santa Maria and Salinas.
Danielson recently sat down with Noozhawk to outline what the merger means — most notably growing KEYT’s news-gathering operations to include everything between Ventura and Paso Robles.
“We have one big, super site,” said Danielson, referring to the joint website now updated under the banner of both news organizations (but with a KEYT web address).
While Cowles Media still holds the license for KCOY-TV and controls general management, programming and sales, NPG picked up about everything else, including equipment, buildings and about 30 employees.
KEYT has retained KCOY’s news operations and is hiring a half-dozen new reporters, anchors and producers in anticipation of a significant change — separating the news operations in Santa Maria and Salinas within the next six months.
For the past two years or so, KCOY reporters in Santa Maria have been sending all news content up to Cowles’ Salinas facility, whose staff has produced two different newscasts for each coverage area.
“We’re not going to continue that model,” Danielson said. “To serve our viewers, we have to focus on local news.”
While the change will add new jobs in Santa Maria, and create a net gain for the acquisition overall, Danielson said a handful of duplicate positions in sales, support and reception were eliminated.
Despite the story sharing, he said KCOY will continue focusing on news in Santa Maria and San Luis Obispo and KEYT will keep its emphasis on Santa Barbara and Ventura.
Both organizations will retain their identities, he said, and are working to create their own mission statements.
“We’re going to make sure the stations serve their primary market,” Danielson said. “The most important thing to people in Santa Maria is not the same as a person in Santa Barbara. What we’re going to provide is more local news and content. Our No. 1 job is to serve our viewers. They rely on us to figure out what’s going on.”
As for whether the merger gives KEYT a monopoly on the market, Danielson said viewers have more choices than ever for news, which is why NPG hopes to bring more of it.
The company’s larger goal in the coming months is to launch a new live broadcast — ideally in Santa Barbara – using high-tech equipment that is being tested now.
More capital improvements are also on the way, just over a year after NPG — not connected to the Santa Barbara News-Press — finalized its purchase of KEYT from Smith Media.
“I think we’ve accomplished quite a bit of things in our first year,” Danielson said, citing the move to full high definition as a key cornerstone.