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KCET-TV's ratings plunge 50% in first week after PBS exit

Aljerome The early figures are in — and KCET-TV's departure from PBS is looking like a ratings disaster for the Los Angeles-based public broadcasting outlet.

For the first four nights this week, KCET averaged a 0.3 household rating, according to the Nielsen Co. That's a whopping 50% decline compared with the 0.6 rating recorded the same period last year, when KCET featured the familiar lineup of PBS programs. An average of 22,000 viewers tuned in to KCET during prime time this week; last year at this time, it was 41,000.

The picture is even worse when ratings for the entire broadcasting day are considered. KCET is delivering a 0.1 household rating, compared with a 0.3 rating last year. KCET is now averaging just 10,000 viewers throughout the day.

KCET left PBS effective Jan. 1 after months of disputes over dues and other issues. Ironically, one of the reasons for the split cited by KCET President and Chief Executive Al Jerome was the rating erosion seen by PBS programming. Because KCET is an independent public broadcaster and does not sell commercial time the way an ad-supported network does, ratings are less critical than membership support. However, low viewing totals suggest a lack of interest that could ultimately affect membership and pledging efforts.

The station has replaced signature PBS shows such as "Nova" and "Antiques Roadshow" with repeats of British series such as "Prime Suspect," as well as documentaries and news programs imported from Japan, Canada and elsewhere. 

Station officials provided their own comparison — including figures from Saturday, the first PBS-free day, and Sunday — that showed ratings had declined only 23% compared with last year.

But spokeswoman Cathy Williams wrote in an e-mail: "We think it is much too early to evaluate the ratings, particularly since we're coming off a holiday weekend."

— Scott Collins (Twitter: @scottcollinsLAT)

Photo: KCET President and Chief Executive Al Jerome in his office in October. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times.





Comments () | Archives (16)

PBS Socal > KCET

Al Jerome should resign.

HA Ha!

KCET deserves to fail due to their greedy top heavy management. How is it that they can promote...i'm sorry "reorganize," all these people who are already making more than they should, yet they can't afford to pay PBS dues? The new programs are terrible and their website stinks! I've switched my viewing to KOCE and have stopped financially supporting KCET. Management at KCET are in it for themselves and don't care about what the public wants. They didn't even notify us when they announced their decision to go independent. SCREW YOU KCET!

That's about $20 per viewer based on Mr. Jerome's 2009 pay packet.

Four days of data do not tell the entire story.  And in fact, there are
two missing days-our launch weekend--that if included would have made
this headline far less dramatic.  Unlike commercial television,
primetime weekend viewing is often higher for public television than
midweek, and that was certainly the case for KCET this week.

The reason why we told the LA Times that it was too early to evaluate
the ratings when the paper initially inquired is because the sample size for
overnight ratings in Los Angeles is so small.  It is small enough that
if just ten sample homes tune out on a given night that can mean a
rating point.  As a result the numbers are very volatile. 
Right now the audience is still discovering  a completely new schedule on KCET.
 We are at the beginning of our existence as the nation's largest independent
public television station and it is far too early to draw any conclusions.

I'd give my life for PBS. Someday it will change the world if it has enough support. WHY KCET!? PBS WILL SAVE US FROM STUPIDITY

KCET has failed this city for a very long time. They are people with no brains, no creativity and no honor. Good riddance.

It's our own responsibility to save ourselves from stupidity. But, since this is California 2011, maybe it isn't, and we can abdicate that function to others, also.

Mr. Marcus,
I don't believe it is premature to make conclusions about KCET's programming content. KCET has unilaterally decided to cease quality PBS programming which is at the heart of today's public television. Without shows such as PBS NewsHours, Frontline, Nova and other great works from other PBS affiliates, you have compromised the quality and interest level of local television viewers. While I understand the financial reasons KCET withdrew from PBS, I think the station's poor financial standing due to the lack of original local content that could have been shared with other PBS affiliates is a major factor. There is no excuse for KCET to have the meager budget it has in contrast to other PBS affiliates. You can blame PBS and the other PBS affiliates all you want, but KCET's lack of of quality today is its own doing.

From what I understand, KCET has a ton of highly paid execs, which eats up a lot of the budget.

Instead of figuring out how to keep quality PBS programming, they apparently were more interested in keeping their jobs.

Oh well. Now I can watch Charlie Rose at 11 PM instead of 11:30. On KVCR.

Adios KCET! You betrayed your viewers, so you can kiss any future financial support from me goodbye.

I was KCET's Programming Director between 2001 and 2003. Even then there was evidence to suggest that KCET's approach to production was both bloated and lackluster - neither responsive to their local membership nor compelling from either a creative or topical standpoint. While some of the station's woes mirrored PBS's larger struggle to stay relevant, the fact is that - contrary to statements - PBS was, at least at that time, massively supportive of KCET's efforts to become a major producing station - even moving its chief programming officer to Beverly Hills for a time. KCET had its chance, and let the opportunity slip.

It didn't have to happen. With L.A.'s talent pool, it could have easily found projects, both documentary and fiction, within a realistic budget range and with far more appeal to its audience. When I had the privilege of bringing legendary producer Norman Lloyd in to record some intro spots, the mostly union crew was thrilled to see him, recalling the glory days when they were producing "Hollywood Theater" together on those same stages. I've met some of the station's board members: they're smart, passionate people who believe in public television and benefit from its programming. So I have a hard time understanding how they could have agreed to this course with this team.

In recent months I've heard from colleagues who've talked with production execs at KOCE. So far they report the conversations have been cordial and productive. Let's hope Orange County can now pick up the mantle that KCET so casually cast aside.

@Bret Marcus,

I used to watch "Charlie Rose" on KCET every week night. This week. I didn't tune into KCET even once. Do I care about watch "Prime Suspect" repeats and Japanese television? No.

I wont even grace kcet in caps now! As a long time viewer I did grow up because of the programing ..so did all 3 of my children. . Now I have no place to get my information about the day and week that kcet used to provide.. I cant say that I watched everything they used to broadcast but I would tell all my friends that I only watched kcet.. I feel raped of the best channel that was on TV... now thats left is a giant hole in my heart! kcet you single handedly set back informative programing into a joke!In 5 seconds of turning off the switch ..you destroyed 25 years of a loyal watching community! may you rest in peace in hell!

So Long KCET!
Hello KOCE!

As a decades long viewer and supporter of KCET I have watched the programming go further and further away from anything truly courageous enough to speak truth to power. I have watched with dread the right leaning destruction of our democracy. And now, I can not with any sense of decency continue to support this corporate sellout. Goodbye Bill Moyers. Goodbye even Nova! And ...GOODBYE KCET.


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