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Channel 38 "The Spot Adds Sports Show

July 28, 2003

As reported here weeks ago on Gateway City Radio, KMCI Channel 38 has had a total station makeover that includes a new logo and 5 million watt broadcast tower. KMCI 38 is now known as "38 the Spot," (it's where you wanna be) will add a nightly sportscast at 7 p.m. beginning this Wednesday.

The move is designed to capitalize on KMCI's growing roster of sports programming, which includes Royals baseball and Big XII basketball. Sister station KSHB, Channel 41, will produce the sportscast, and KSHB sports anchor Jack Harry will serve as main host, sharing the anchor desk with the station's other sports reporters, Lisa Holbrook and Leon Liebl.

The program, "Sports Spot," will compete, though not directly, with Time Warner Cable's Metro Sports channel. KMCI's program will feature interviews and analysis from guests and live phone calls from viewers.

"At a time when everybody else is canceling or cutting back sports, we're looking to expand it," said KSHB news director Debbie Bush. "We're hoping that it becomes a lot like talk radio on television, that people will talk about it the next day."

Earlier this week, KMCI relaunched itself as "38 the Spot," with promotional spots that feature the station's new logo, a hyperactive blue ball.

KMCI also introduced an on-screen "host," KSHB traffic reporter Taunia Hottman. She will appear between programs to promote upcoming shows and keep the energy level up.

KMCI's managers used the word "fun" repeatedly to describe the station's new image. It was a criteria in choosing Hottman over other applicants for the advertised position.

To announce the changeover, the station is using its second-most-effective viewer magnet: nightly marathons all this week of "The Simpsons." Repeats of the long-running cartoon have been Channel 38's highest-rated show each of the last seven years.

Currently, however, KMCI's strongest viewer magnet is the Royals, and it can only help the sportscast's prospects that it comes along at a time when local interest in the team is peaking. KMCI was the No. 1 station in prime time recently thanks to baseball, the first time the station has done that in its 15-year history. Viewership for Sunday's Royals-Mariners afternoon game rose well above a 14 Nielsen rating, or about 10 times what Channel 38 averaged in prime time during May.

Station manager Craig Allison credits the outsized ratings in part to the station's new transmitter, which was relocated last month to southeast Kansas City from Lawrence. He estimated that one-third more area viewers can now pull in KMCI's signal from its new tower.

Bush hopes that signal gives Channel 38 an advantage over Metro Sports.

"Thirty to 35 percent of our local audience doesn't have cable, so there's an option now," Bush said. "We want to make 38 a place to turn to for sports."

"Sports Spot" was supposed to begin Monday -- TV Guide lists the program in next week's edition -- but various delays pushed the start date to Wednesday, July 30. It will air 7 p.m. weeknights, initially as a 30-minute program. Allison said if all goes well, he will ratchet the length up to one hour.

"Sports Spot" will be Channel 38's only new prime-time show for now. In September it will add Sharon Osbourne's talk show at 8 p.m., as well as repeats of "The King of Queens" at 10:30 p.m. The station's low-rated 9 p.m. newscast, also produced by KSHB, has been canceled.

A Lawrence couple signed KMCI on in 1988 as an affiliate of the Home Shopping Network. They later sold the station to Scripps-Howard Broadcasting of Cincinnati. From 1996 to 2002 it was known as "38 Family Greats" and emphasized family-friendly programming.