San Francisco News Net Due a Revamp


The owners of BayTV want to revamp the local San Francisco cable channel, hoping to give it a real identity and make it profitable, officials said last week.

KRON-TV owns 51 percent of BayTV; AT&T Broadband has the remaining 49 percent. The cable operator distributes the network to 1.4 million Bay Area subscribers.

"With our partner AT&T, we are trying to reinvent the channel and make it a strong locally produced cable-exclusive product," said Craig Marrs, vice president and station manager for both KRON and BayTV. "It was designed as a community-oriented Bay area network. It's now locally produced shows without an overriding sense of identity. Clearly, news and information will play a stronger role in it."

KRON recently laid off 17 staffers at the cable channel. Looking to staunch some of the red ink at BayTV, the broadcaster opted to consolidate the cable outlet's news operation with its own.

"Upon careful evaluation, we've decided that it's more efficient to operate with KRON management overseeing news on BayTV," KRON president and general manager Paul Dinovitz said in a prepared statement.

As part of the changes, BayTV's 9 p.m. newscast has been cut to 30 minutes from its former hour.

BayTV launched in July 1994, not as a traditional local-news channel but as a combination of community events, local programming-like cooking and gardening shows-and some local news. But that "hodgepodge of programming" has failed to create a real identity for the channel, said Marrs, who founded and was general manager of NorthWest Cable News in Seattle.

Last year, KRON was acquired by Young Broadcasting Inc., which is now eager to transform BayTV into a profitable entity.

"We want to make BayTV more commercially viable, and a real service to the cable subscribers in the Bay area," Marrs said. "We're in very productive talks with our partners at AT&T on this. These channels need a true identity. You need to know what it is when your turn it on."

AT&T maintains it is supportive of BayTV and KRON.

"They are our partners and we have every intention of keeping our partnership with Young," AT&T spokesman Andrew Johnson said. "BayTV is a cable-exclusive channel. It rounds out our channel lineup."

KRON is currently an NBC affiliate, but it won't be for long. Young last year balked at paying NBC the compensation it was seeking for the TV station to remain an affiliate.

As a result, effective Dec. 31, 2001, KRON will become an independent station, and San Jose, Calif., station KNTV will become the area's NBC affiliate.

A year ago KNTV, which is owned by Granite Broadcasting Corp., said it was exploring creating a local cable-news channel for San Francisco through a partnership that would involve the TV station, NBC Newschannel, CNBC and MSNBC. Last week, KNTV officials couldn't be reached for comment on where those plans stand.