A San Francisco TV station focusing on Asian viewers has revived its show Kung Fu Theater and is taking it national through the VUit streaming service.
VUit, launched by Syncbak and backed by Gray Television, makes programming from 200 local stations available over-the-top, giving stations more exposure and creating opportunities for new revenue.
KTSF-TV, owned by Lincoln Broadcasting, originally aired Kung Fu Theater, a campy martial arts program, 30 years ago. On July 27, KTSF began airing new episodes of the program.
General manager Jack Schwartz told Broadcasting+Cable that the station located the show’s original host, martial art champion Tat Wong, who has a Bay Area Kung Fu academy. Wong, still in fighting shape all these years later, shot fresh openings in English for the new episodes.
The show features three popular series from China, The Legend of the Condor Heroes, The Return of the Condor Heroes and Tian Long Ba Bu. The episodes air in Chinese, with Chinese and English subtitles. Chinese viewers expect programs to be subtitled. The English subtitles make the show accessible to general audiences, Schwartz said.
The program airs in late fringe after KTSF’s 10 o’clock newscast and drew 4,000 viewers in its first outing. The station’s top show, its 7 p.m. newscast, which sometimes leads the market in the adults 25 to 54 demo, averages about 45,000 total viewers.
While news is important to the station, Schwartz is also looking for local niches it can fill. Some of those niches may achieve national reach with VUit.
When Schwartz arrived at KTSF a year and a half ago, it was using Syncbak before VUit launched. The station used Syncbak as the platform for its app, which generates more than 20% of the station’s viewing for its local news and other programming.
“I wanted to be able to use more of their services,” Schwartz said, including VUit.
“It’s a better platform that’s easier for people to use, not only in the market, but outside the market as well. And frankly, I also wanted to be able to engage their programmatic services.”
Kung Fu Theater was made available on VUit’s VOD platform on Friday. It will continue to be available on demand through February.
Without any promotion, Kung Fu Theater was watched in 14 markets last week. “It’s nice. We have viewers all over the country who are looking for something in Mandarin or Cantonese, and they find us on VUit,” Schwartz said.
So far, viewing is heaviest in urban markets with large Asian populations, including Los Angeles, Sacramento and New York. Viewing has also been strong in Canada, where VUit can be accessed.
KTSF is able to monetize those viewers. The station’s sales team is selling ads both locally and nationally. And what it can’t sell directly, Syncbak’s programmatic facility can, he said.
The national revenue will help support local programming efforts. “Obviously, we’re in business to make money but also to serve the community. And we’re trying to find interesting programming that’s fun and can continue to grow viewership.”
The station will start to promote Kung Fu Theater more, but Schwartz stops short of expecting it to become a national sensation. “This is an opportunity to get our voice out across the country. It’s almost like bonus viewing that I really wasn’t anticipating.”
VUit has brought big events and show produced by local stations to national audiences before. VUit streamed coverage of the 2021 Iditarod Sled Dog Race from Gray TV’s KTUU-TV in Anchorage, Alaska, earlier this year. The telecast reached viewers from 178 markets
“Hyperlocal content is relevant for audiences beyond their broadcast markets and livestreaming is the future of local television,” said Jack Perry, CEO of Syncbak. “Kung-Fu Theater, which provides unique, culture rich, quality content, is a great example of what would be relevant to a national audience. We’re excited to help expand the reach and amplify the audience of this series.”
What else from KTSF might win up on VUit?
Schwartz said KTSF has a call-in show with a Cantonese financial expert. It also just shot a 13-episode new season of a food and health show with San Francisco-based Chef Martin Yan, best known for his public TV show Yan Can Cook. The new episodes are scheduled to start to air Oct. 1.
VUit already streams other programming from KTSF, including Chinese New Year Parades, Talk Today, Kaitlyn's Beauty Journal, Travel with Thea, Martin Yan Seasoned with Laughter, Martin Yan's Sizzling Wok and Martin Yan's Gourmet Kitchen
Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting + Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.
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