Stations Promising More Than News at 11

KFVE Honolulu has had the epiphany that plenty of other stations have: There is a lot more to local programming than news and sports.

The station has two hours of MyNetworkTV programming a night on weekdays and a few hours of local news scattered throughout the week. “It’s tough finding hits in syndication nowadays,” says VP and general manager John Fink. “You don’t want to be dependent on that to be in control of your own destiny.”

The station, owned by MCG Capital and operated by Raycom, made a push a few years ago for more non-news, non-sports local programs, particularly in primetime. A different local show now airs in the 7-7:30 p.m. block each weeknight. K5 is delivering 10 distinct non-news, non-sports local programs, totaling 6½ hours per week this winter.

“‘Going local’ doesn’t just mean news, but it does allow a local station a positioning statement to remain relevant and interesting to a distracted audience,” Fink says. “There are all kinds of things out there that local communities watch, local advertisers will follow. We needed stuff a little different and unique to compete.”

On What’s Cooking, Hawaii? the host Grant Sato, head chef and culinary arts professor at a Honolulu community college, shares recipes, cooking pointers and health tips. Game show It’s Academic, Hawaii returns for a fifth season in 2016 with 27 high schools pitted against each other.

“It’s an opportunity to support academics and show that it’s cool to be smart,” Fink says. “We’re giving back to the community and showcasing kids at the same time.”

For other shows, producers will call up KFVE and propose an idea. HI*Sessions is a local music program that goes behind-the-scenes of famous and budding Hawaiian artists. Discover Digest follows a tour group to South Korea.

“People know K5 is the place to go when they have local programming ideas,” Fink says.

KFVE has plenty of company in the local production game.

WHTM, Media General’s ABC affiliate in Harrisburg, Pa., airs popular lifestyle program Good Day PA! weekdays at 12:30. Tribune Broadcasting Group’s WQAD offers its audience in the Quad Cities (West-Central Illinois and Eastern Iowa) Brewed, a half-hour about craft beer, while WGNO takes advantage of the music scene in New Orleans by highlighting its music, past and present, on Nola Music Playlist.

Good Things Utah is a staple of Nexstar-owned KTVX’s programming roster. The live local lifestyle show, initially created to connect with the community via features, launched in 2002 and quickly beat the time-period competition in Salt Lake City.

The show’s three hosts begin each broadcast by offering their thoughts on different topics and then chat with guests. George Severson, KTVX news director and creator of Good Things Utah, likens it to “an hour of girlfriends sitting together drinking coffee or having lunch.” In fact, there is always a cooking segment in the middle of the show.

“We don’t have the opportunity to fix little blemishes,” Severson says. “We are happening as life would happen, and the show reflects that. Our viewers really appreciate that.”

Severson says Good Things Utah is critical to KTVX’s financial success, calling it a “community pillar” for TV programming. “If we took it off the air, there would be a huge revolt among daytime viewers in the area,” he says.

Over in Las Vegas, Scripps’ KTNV in September 2014 launched Valley View Live, a variety show with a different celebrity guest host and performance of some kind each day. Julie Pyle, KTNV executive producer of local programming, says that by showcasing community events and causes the program gives people a voice.

“We’re holding a mirror up to our community. We are a direct reflection of what’s happening in Las Vegas,” Pyle says. “If you’re only watching your newscast, you’re not getting a true reflection of what’s happening.”