Local TV stations vie for viewers | VailDaily.com

Local TV stations vie for viewers

Steve Lynn
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY ” Four local television stations may sound like a lot for a county of around 50,000 that’s mostly rural.

For Jason Katzman, general manager for Plum TV, it works.

“The different channels serve a different purpose,” Katzman said.

Whether viewers are watching an argument about a barbwire fence at a Minturn Town Council meeting or watching mohawk-wearing skier Glen Plake, those in the industry say the stations provide unique content for locals.

But in a local lineup with two resort-oriented channels and two government television stations, it’s not easy to run a TV station with competition for advertising dollars or with a lack of funding from the county, some say.

Government stations Channel 5 and eco-TV-18 provide a good services but the content is “pretty dry,” said Howard Leavitt, owner of Media Safari, an advertising agency in Avon.

“I mean face it, who would you rather watch?” Leavitt said. “Glen Plake getting radical or Arn Menconi getting radical?”

Businesses may want to advertise on the local commercial stations for the tourist dollar, but locals don’t watch those stations as much, he said.

“You’re not going to get as many locals to watch the local stations as much as they watch CNN and ESPN,” Leavitt said.

Plum TV and TV8 compete on the resort side, but station managers say their programming sets them apart.

Plum TV has stations in Vail, Aspen, Telluride and Sun Valley In the West, and the East Coast is represented in Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, the Hamptons and Miami Beach.

Plum TV caters to locals and tourists, Katzman said. During the summer, it covers sports such as golf, fishing and mountain biking, and cultural events such as concerts, he said.

“Wherever you’re coming from, we hope it’s something you can relate to or latch on to or find interesting,” Katzman said.

Vail Resorts-owned TV8 promotes Vail and Beaver Creek and is affiliated with Resort Sports Network, a Maine-based outfit with 28 affiliates nationwide.

TV8 targets tourists first and locals second, said Craig Struve, director of television operations.

Like other local station managers, Struve said TV8 did not have accurate numbers for how many people watch. However, audience surveys indicate that 85 percent of tourists watch “Good Morning Vail” sometime during their trip, he said.

Eco-TV and Channel 5 are primarily aim to get the word out about happenings in local government.

Eco-TV shows Eagle County Commission meetings and each commissioner has his or her own show, “Up Front.”

“Now when the commissioners make decisions, they do it in view, not behind closed doors,” said Justin Finestone, communications director for Eagle County.

The non-profit Channel 5 broadcasts town council meetings, but programs such as “Girls Gone Fishin'” and “Redneck Adventures” also can be found on its program schedule.

Channel 5 has not functioned as a public access station for some time, but that would change now that the station bought some new equipment and hired a second full-time employee, said station manager Jon Donofrio.

“Channel 5 was struggling for a long time, but now we’re moving forward,” he said.

Channel 5 expects to let members of the public do their own television shows in the “very near future,” he said.

Funding has been a problem for Channel 5, Donofrio said.

The government stations collect most of their money through cable TV franchise fees, paid for by cable subscribers.

Eco-TV collects about $250,000 in franchise fees, Finestone said. The station also spent $25,000 for a vehicle and wants $31,000 for new equipment, he said.

Channel 5 did not provide its budget by press time, but Donofrio said he runs the station at a “very low cost.”

County government spends more money on eco-TV than on Channel 5, Donofrio said.

“I don’t understand why eco-TV went on the air personally,” Donofrio said. “It was kind of a duplication of effort.”

From brochures to newspapers, advertising dollars for TV can be tough to come by, Struve said.

And like other businesses in the valley, the cost of living shrinks the pool of job applicants, he said.

“It’s tough to find the right person for the right job,” Struve said.

Summer can be a tough time for business for the commercial stations, industry officials said.

“As a local where are you going to be on any given morning?” Leavitt said. “Sitting in front of your TV or outside on a beautiful day like this?”

Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached at 748-2931 or slynn@vaildaily.com.

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