Big changes coming in Boise TV news market

By Michael Deeds

A series of shake-ups in the Boise area TV market will actually bring more TV news reporting to the Treasure Valley. Here’s a breakdown:

* Channel 12 is going independent in September.

Yes, KTRV — currently the Fox affiliate — officially will become a station without a network.

This doesn’t mean KTRV will produce less local news. KTRV, which is owned by privately held Block Communications, plans to pull itself up by its bootstraps, invest resources and add even more news programming. The station says it will hire at least six more news staffers.

KTRV wants to explore ways to become more community-oriented, says Ricky Joseph, president and general manager — possibly even broadcasting live sports from minor-league teams such as the Boise Hawks or Idaho Steelheads, or diving further into high-school sports.

Instead of Fox prime-time programming on Channel 12, you’ll find syndicated comedy and dramas.

There are successful independent TV stations out there. Going indie adds freedom and the potential to sell more advertising time. But it all takes blood, sweat and tears.

“It’s been done,” says Michael Malone, deputy editor at weekly trade publication Broadcasting & Cable. “… But it’s tough.”

* Channel 9 will become the new Fox affiliate in September. That means we’ll get a fresh Fox news team here.

Fox recently cut a deal with Journal Broadcast Group, which owns KNIN Channel 9 and KIVI Channel 6. No more “American Idol” or “Glee” on Channel 12, kids. This fall, it’s all Fox9.

A Fox affiliate requires a hip, quicker-paced brand of TV journalism, right? Journal is hiring two news anchors, along with a slew of other staffers. (I counted 16 TV job openings listed at Journal’s website.)

With Journal operating the ABC affiliate at KIVI and the Fox affiliate at KNIN, resources will be pooled — theoretically making both news programs stronger.

With more people reporting, anchoring and shooting, Journal’s TV stations will have the ability to cover the news with more depth, says Marie McGlynn, vice president and general manager.

Initially at least, Fox9 will broadcast less news programming than Channel 12 does currently. For example, at night, you’ll see a 9 p.m. local newscast on Fox9 but no newscast at 10 p.m. While Channel 6 does its 10 o’clock news, Fox9 will offer an alternative in the form of syndicated programming. Makes sense. Why compete with yourself?

* The CW — currently on Channel 9 — is moving to digital channel KBOI.2 with a simulcast on low-power KYUU. Yep, that’s where you’ll find the network that carries shows such as “Gossip Girl” and “America’s Next Top Model.”

In addition, it will feature local morning and late news. But will KBOI Channel 2 — owned by Fisher Communications — simply rebroadcast its local news program on the digital-channel CW? Nope. There will be a separate news product on the CW at 9 p.m. nightly, as well as mornings at 7 a.m.

No decision has been made regarding staffing, says Eric Jordan, KBOI’s general manager. However, it seems very possible that the current Channel 2 news staff simply will find itself doing extra daily broadcasts for the CW.

So … are there enough ad dollars for all the stations in this struggling, small-market economy? BIA/Kelsey estimates the gross revenues of all over-the-air TV stations here in 2006 was $41.6 million. In 2010, those revenues fell to $29.9 million. Dominant KTVB Channel 7 swallowed up nearly half of that (which means it’s also taken the biggest dollar hit during the drop).

Whatever the case, it appears there will be a ton of local TV news here for the foreseeable future.

Michael Deeds is a columnist and entertainment editor at the Idaho Statesman, where this article first appeared on June 17 in the Scene magazine; it is reprinted here by permission. He can be reached on Twitter at @IDS_Deeds.