KETV Omaha is the focus of a new museum exhibit as it takes on a gargantuan renovation project. The Durham Museum showcase features archival photos and video of the Hearst TV station, as well as images detailing the ABC affiliate’s move into a beloved, if tarnished, local landmark—the Burlington train station.
“It’s the single most commonly asked question we get at the Durham,” says Carrie Meyer, exhibits curator. “‘What’s happening with the Burlington?’”
The Burlington, a grand Italianate-style edifice, opened July 4, 1898 and immediately welcomed arrivals to Omaha for the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition—better known as the world’s fair—as they stepped off the train and took in the station’s marble columns, mosaic floors and 60-foot ceilings. It was a bustling depot for decades, but gradually lost activity to Union Station a block away. When train travel gave way to the automobile, the once-regal Burlington fell into disrepair before Amtrak cleared out in 1974.
There have been several attempts to bring the 48,000-sq.-ft. station, listed in the National Register of Historic Places and located in Omaha’s Little Italy, back to relevance, including turning it into apartments and an office building. All fell through until Hearst started poking around.
Ariel Roblin, president and general manager of KETV, did not initially envision the Burlington as a TV station while wading through several inches of pigeon feathers in its Grand Hall. But after descending to the track-level floor, the vision crystalized. “I felt it,” she says. “I felt a million stories in that building.”
Hearst has laid out $22 million for the building and renovation. The company sees it not only as a unique new space for the TV operation, but a move to preserve, and make vital, a local institution. “Our real investment is in the Omaha community, and the investment in this new building is another example of that commitment to
Omaha,” says Jordan Wertlieb, Hearst TV president. Omaha is a boomtown; BIA/Kelsey has DMA No. 74 at No. 61 in terms of revenue. KETV is a local news power.
KETV’s 119 staffers are planning to move in by the fall. News director Rose Ann Shannon grew up in the area, and warmly recalls a rail trip to Kansas City with her family that started at Burlington Station. “There are probably easier ways to build a television station,” she says. “But this speaks to the commitment KETV and the company has to give back to the community.”
The exhibit, called “Station to Station,” depicts the histories of Burlington Station and KETV as they become intertwined later this year. When the TV station completes its move into the train station, the exhibit will shift to a new community room at the Burlington.
Hearst’s heavy investment has sparked as much as $30 million worth of new commercial initiatives in the immediate neighborhood, says Roblin. “It’s rare,” she says, “that a station gets this type of opportunity to bring something so important back to the community.”
MEREDITH STATIONS GET COZI
Meredith-owned WGCL Atlanta, KPHO Phoenix, KPTV Portland, WSMV Nashville, WHNS Greenville, WNEM Flint and WSHM Springfield (Mass.) have signed on to air Cozi TV on their multicast channels starting in the spring. Cozi’s latest agreements bring the classic TV diginet to approximately 80 million U.S. homes and over 70% of the country.
“By adding Cozi to our stations, we are enhancing our viewers’ experience and giving them another high-quality viewing choice,” says Doug Lowe, executive VP of Meredith Local Media Group.
Cozi TV, launched in 2013 by NBC Owned Television Stations, also signed up WFFP in Lynchburg, Va., as an affiliate.
“We are thrilled to welcome eight new stations to the Cozi TV family,” says Diane Petzke, the diginet’s director of programming and promotion. “We’re so excited to reintroduce viewers to classic shows like Miami Vice, Magnum, P.I. and Charlie’s Angels and we invite them to sit back, relax and watch their all-time favorites.”
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