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KOLD, KGUN MAKING HD STUDIO UPGRADES

Late last week, KOLD Channel 13's news took on a different look—as if downgrading to closet chic was the in thing all of a sudden.

Well, KOLD's minimalist approach is not an effort to tone down the product to appeal to amateur videophiles. There's a much simpler explanation: KOLD needs to temporarily broadcast from a portion of its newsroom while the station upgrades to a high-definition studio.

"We're doing it in two phases: HD news, and HD control room for syndicated programming and commercials—news first," said KOLD general manager Debbie Bush. "We're excited about the HD transition."

KVOA Channel 4 was the first station in the market to make the leap. It went HD in 2008—at a significant cost, and at a time when revenues in the industry were sagging. Raycom-owned KOLD and Journal-owned KGUN Channel 9 had held off on making the move, but the companies are finally getting up to speed.

"It was already on the books. Tucson was supposed to go this year," said Bush, who replaced Jim Arnold as general manager a few months ago. "When I came in, I felt like we needed to get it on as soon as possible, and Raycom agreed. Anybody will tell you: It's not a cheap transition. (The investment for studio upgrades of this magnitude can run into six figures.) We're just very happy Raycom is willing to fund the projects."

KGUN is moving in a similar direction.

"KGUN 9 currently broadcasts network and syndicated programming, and most commercial content, in HD," said KGUN general manager Julie Brinks via e-mail. "Our local news and programming producttion has also been converted to HD news-gathering, editing and studio production. The final technical conversion phase of our production control room is on schedule for this fall, with full end-to-end HD broadcasts of all our local programming by year-end."


KOLD HOLDS OFF ON ADDITIONAL LOCAL PROGRAMMING

KOLD Channel 13 has considered adding more local programming—perhaps something similar to KGUN Channel 9's The Morning Blend, a sales-driven hour-long interview show (i.e., a controversial-in-some-circles advertorial product).

However, those considerations have been shelved for now.

"We were looking at numerous models," said KOLD news director Michelle Germano. "Our company has a lot of models out there. There are a lot that are successful, just like The Morning Blend, but there are also others that are highly successful that have nothing to do with sales and everything to do with news. ... We're continually revisiting doing more local programming. It's something we talk about all the time, but it just didn't fit the niche right now."

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