Kieran Clarke is, by several accounts, a bit taciturn. The son of a retired undercover federal law enforcement agent, Clarke tends to keep a low profile, his voice staying on an even keel. Of course, that all changes when the topic of the NFL champion New York Giants comes up. Clarke, the Bronx-born head of Meredith's duopoly in Portland, Ore., and executive VP of Meredith Video Solutions (MVS), grows downright animated when talking about the franchise he calls “my Giants” and its unlikely run to a Super Bowl championship earlier this month. The no-nonsense veneer is gone, and Clarke sounds like the guy at the corner of the bar, bottle of Bud in hand, as he discusses Eli Manning, Michael Strahan and the rest of the boys in blue.
Clarke took in the Super Bowl at the University of Phoenix Stadium with clients, an experience he puts on his short list of all-time memories. “It was surreal being there,” says Clarke, who played a little defensive back at Curry College in Massachusetts. “The energy in that stadium—I've never seen anything like that before.”
These days, Clarke is busier than a free safety facing a hurry-up offense. Formerly a sales manager and director for Tribune, Clarke joined Meredith in 2005 as VP/General Manager of Fox affiliate KPTV and MyNetworkTV outlet KPDX, and has added a whopping 21 hours a week of local news since taking over the stations.
As if that weren't enough, he's an architect of the Meredith syndicated daytime show Better, and in November was tapped to head up MVS, the creative force behind the broadband channels Better.TV and Parents.TV as well as Parents.TV's video-on-demand offerings on cable.
While he's characteristically circumspect about whether he'll continue with such a workload for the long term, Clarke says he can handle the haul for now. “I'm a young guy and I've got plenty of energy,” says Clarke, who's 45. “Plus, I've got excellent people reporting to me.”
Clarke was raised in Sayreville, N.J., about 45 minutes south of the Giants' home at the Meadowlands. While his boyhood peers were likely watching countless hours of Tom & Jerry and other cartoons, the young Clarke's own TV consumption consisted of slightly more grown-up fare. “My parents controlled the TV set,” he says, “so we watched lots of news.”
Clarke claims artistic leanings as a youth, but while studying business management at Curry, he realized he enjoyed the art of the deal more than the art itself. His early jobs included account executive stints at Seltel and Telerep, where colleagues remember him as extraordinarily hard-working and, indeed, no-nonsense in his demeanor. “Kieran's an aggressive professional who cares about winning and doing a good job,” says MMT Sales president Larry Strumwasser, who hired Clarke both at Seltel and Telerep and worked with him for about a decade.
Clarke joined Tribune in 1993 and spent a dozen years there, including stints as national sales manager at KTLA Los Angeles and sales director at KTXL Sacramento. He worked his way up to VP/general manager at KWBP Portland, which he ran from 2003 until joining Meredith.
Absorbing all that news as a child clearly rubbed off on him; Clarke promptly set about bolstering KPTV's news offerings and moving the station from the middle of the pack to the market leader. This week, KPTV introduces a 4 p.m. newscast, defying the conventional wisdom that suggests waiting until more people are home closer to 7. “The 'nobody home' thing is bogus—there are [stay-at-home] mothers, shift workers, early retirees,” says Clarke. “Plus, we're unopposed at 4.”
Clarke has also grown the stations' Web business through not only their primary sites (KPTV.com focuses on news and KPDX.com on entertainment), but the standalone “premier Portland city guide” LivePDX.com. That site offers the best of local food and drink, nightlife and shopping, and recently hit its millionth page view seven months after launch.
Clarke is also finding a little time for MVS, which creates multiplatform video that draws on Meredith's strengths such as homes, family and fitness. (Meredith owns the magazines Better Homes and Gardens and Family Circle, among others.) With operations in Portland, Des Moines and New York, MVS has launched the two broadband channels and ironed out a deal with Comcast that made Parents.TV available on-demand starting last December.
Next up for MVS is increasing the distribution for Better. Clarke launched the daytime program, originally titled More, on KPTV last March. Adding windows for local inserts, Meredith took the show national, and now has commitments in 27 markets, including stations owned by LIN and Journal Broadcast Group.
Better and other MVS projects call on Clarke's creative skills that decades before seemed to have lost out to his business side. For Meredith Broadcasting Group president Paul Karpowicz, Clarke's creative acumen has been nothing short of a revelation.
“When I hired Kieran, I hired him for his strong news background,” Karpowicz says. “What has been a pleasant surprise is his great skill and affinity for programming and production. I knew he was a great sales guy and manager, but now I realize he's got this creative side as well.”
Clarke is enjoying his newish Portland digs and all the outdoor activity the region encourages. He also enjoys calling up that Super Bowl contest that's forever saved on his DVR, and watching American Idol with his children. Typical of a TV professional's life, Clarke says all four kids were born in different markets, but his multiple Meredith duties should have them entrenched in the Pacific Northwest for the foreseeable future. “It's like the military,” says Clarke of his career choice. “Only we eat better.”
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