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Tuesday, Aug 16, 2022
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Two HQs in KCET Merger

KCETLink Media Group Inc.’s proposed merger with PBS SoCal (KOCE) in Orange County aims to create a new center for public broadcasting in Burbank. Under the merger plan, KCET’s current home in The Pointe office tower at 2900 W. Alameda Ave. will serve as one of two headquarters for the new company. “The merged organization will use the two original hubs – one in Burbank and one and Costa Mesa,” said PBS SoCal Chief Executive Andrew Russell, who will head the yet-to-be-named company. “They will continue to be vital to the organization.” Both KCET and PBS SoCal will keep all of their existing channels and outlets, which include seven broadcast channels, a satellite station and two websites between them. Russell said the broadcasters plan to pool their collective assets without making cuts to staff or programming. He framed the move as a merger of equals that offer different types of content. No payments were made to either side as part of the deal. Since leaving the Public Broadcasting Service network in 2011, KCET has focused on original programming covering local news, arts and culture. PBS SoCal, meanwhile, is known for carrying award-winning PBS programs such as “Downton Abbey” and Ken Burns documentaries. “The merger will bring complementary strengths for both sides,” said Russell. “This isn’t a merger where there is a lot of overlap.” Employee reorganization In addition to being KCET’s center for production, the Burbank facilities may eventually host 10 to 15 PBS SoCal employees. Russell expects the integration to take about 12 months as the stations map out their local production plans. KCET currently has around 70 employees at the station. “There will be good opportunities for cost-effective operations,” said Russell. “We’ll find those pieces fit together pretty well.” In October, KCET began subleasing close to half of the 55,000-square-foot facility to The Switch, a New York-based firm that provides video signal routing services. The company took over four control rooms, nine edit bays, a 2,500-square-foot soundstage and a 1,500-square-foot virtual green screen studio, according to The Switch. As a part of the agreement, The Switch also handles the master control and broadcast origination for KCET and its satellite channel Link TV. Russell said there are no plans to change KCET’s agreement with The Switch. It will continue leasing the Burbank location for at least the next five years. “We have both locations until 2023 (when our lease is up) and then we’ll look at our long-term plans,” he explained. KCET moved to the 14-story office tower in Burbank in 2011 after selling its longtime headquarters on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles to the Church of Scientology. The move came after the station severed ties with PBS due to a disagreement over membership dues and became fully independent. Operating without PBS’ funding and its host of popular shows proved to be costly for KCET. Ratings, contributions and revenues reportedly took a major hit, and the downturn likely forced the organization to sell the original real estate. According to the most recent available tax filings, contributions to KCET dropped from $22.8 million in 2013 to $16.2 million in 2015. In 2015, the non-profit operated at a loss of more than $7 million. KCET said contributions and revenues have rebounded in recent years. The merger also follows a trend of high-profile media acquisitions currently in the approval process. In December, Walt Disney Co. announced a $52 billion proposal to acquire 21st Century Fox’s film studios and television networks. Telecom giant AT&T is currently seeking to buy Warner Bros. parent Time Warner Inc. in an $85 billion deal. And Sinclair Broadcast Group, which currently owns 173 local television stations across the country, is looking to expand its reach with a $3.9 billion deal to acquire 42 stations owned by Tribune Media. Analysts see the mergers as a way for legacy media companies to compete with digital platforms such as Netflix, Amazon, Google and Facebook that are siphoning away viewers and eating up a larger share of total advertising revenue. KCET Chairman Dick Cook acknowledged these challenges in the company’s announcement of the merger. “In this dynamic time for media, this is exactly the right moment to marry the complementary core strengths of each of our organizations,” said Cook in a statement. “Our new company combines PBS SoCal’s beloved quality programming and community engagement excellence with KCETLink’s passion for creating smart, original content that captures the spirit of the region.” In recent years, both stations have focused on expanding their digital presence by producing online videos and articles to share on social media. Russell said the new company will continue to make this a priority to enhance its coverage arts, culture, news and public affairs. “We want to build it as a center for innovation to lead into the future media age,” he said.

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