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I noticed during the Oscar broadcast that our local ABC affiliate, KSTP, began running a new commercial for its news shows. Ed Asner, reprising his Lou Grant role but without using the name, stands in front of the KSTP newsroom and gruffly tells them that the nonsense stops now, and if they're looking for dancing bears, they need to work somewhere else. I remember thinking at the time that the whole concept was pathetic; it's been twenty-two years since the Lou Grant character was last performed.
Today, the Star Tribune explains it all -- the desperation, the dropping revenue, and the tortured explanation of how KSTP News sold its brain, if not its soul, in order to attract viewers:
KSTP-TV, Channel 5, has launched an image-building campaign featuring actor Ed Asner, who reprises his signature role of Lou Grant, the gruff, no-nonsense news director beloved by Minnesota audiences since his days at the fictional Minneapolis TV station WJM on the '70s hit "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."
"It's not about how pretty we look or how many fancy awards we've won," Asner growls in one commercial. "It's about how much news we can fit in 30 minutes."
But for KSTP the new campaign is also about ratings and revenue. The flagship property of St. Paul-based Hubbard Broadcasting empire has spent years stuck in third place in the local news ratings, and that's having a big impact on its bottom line. News programming can account for as much as half of a station's total ad revenue. The lower the ratings for a station's newscast, especially among the prized 18-to-34 age group, the lower its revenue.
Stop right there. To begin with, if someone thought that Ed Asner attracts 18- to 34-year-olds, they should immediately get themselves to Lens Crafters. What math genius made this decision? 18-year-olds weren't even born yet when Asner was last on TV as Lou Grant in either of the character's shows. 34-year-olds were 12, and I'm sure they thought that Lou Grant was the heighth of cool in their prepubuscent years. I do seem to recall the fashion wave of potbellies and bald heads that plagued middle-school campuses in 1982.
More seriously, how exactly does having a fictional character endorsement give credibility to a news show? Perhaps their local marketing strategist also advises the Dennis Kucinich campaign; will we see Grandfather Twilight flacking for KSTP soon too? Having a make-believe character delivering a sermon about straight news to a roomful of actors in the KSTP newsroom does not give me confidence in the reliability of their news broadcast, especially since Grant's last choice of a news anchor was Ted Baxter.
In short, this promotion is about everything except the news. When this doesn't work, perhaps we'll see the guys from Sports Night make an appearance.Sphere It View blog reactions
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