May 23, 2008

KREM-TV Pulls the Plug, Connects with Viewers

Phone Bank Receives Overwhelming Response

Spokane, WA -- The analog signal disappeared for only ten seconds, but the reaction lasted for days.

On Wednesday, May 21, viewers of KREM 2 News at 6 watched chief meteorologist Tom Sherry flip the switch, engaging a simulated analog outage that replicated the digital conversion coming in February 2009. Viewers receiving their TV signals from rooftop antennas or rabbit ears saw static, while most cable and satellite viewers continued to see Sherry walking them through the test. The station was ready for viewer calls but the response, executives say, was overwhelming.

"Stations across the country have started conducting similar tests," said KREM President and General Manager Jamie Aitken. "Most send viewers to the recorded DTV hotline in Washington, DC, but it was important to us that our viewers get personal attention.

"During the test we posted an 800 number feeding directly into our newsroom so viewers could speak directly with local DTV experts to have their questions answered. The response to that kind of customer service was tremendous."

Well over 100 calls were answered in the hour following the test, said KREM Director of Technology John Souza, and station personnel were continuing to field calls and emails through the week.

"We were somewhat concerned that viewers would find the test confusing," Souza said, "since some of our smaller cable and satellite providers aren't yet ready to deliver digital signals but will be by February. And with nearly 60 translators carrying our signal over mountainous terrain, there is no single scenario for receiving a digital signal. That's primarily why we set up the phone bank.

"But we found that viewers found the test very easy to understand," Souza said. "They were simply asking what their next steps should be. Many of these callers needed very specific information to walk them through their digital solutions, information they would never receive through a national recorded message service. We received dozens of compliments for providing real people with real-time customer-targeted information."

For the test, anchors Randy Shaw and Nadine Woodward introduced Sherry who was reporting live from the station's transmitter. After explaining how the test worked, Sherry flipped the switch. Viewers with antenna or rabbit ear analog TV sets saw their pictures turn to static, with graphics overlaid with the phone bank 800 number and the station's DTV web address. Cable, satellite and digital set viewers continued to see Sherry, who reported that these viewers were ready for the digital conversion.

The test was repeated during the station's 11 p.m. newscast.

"This was a very successful exercise, made even better by the personal service we were able to give and continue to give our viewers," Aitken said. "We'll do it again this year to make sure the Inland Northwest is as prepared as possible for the conversion in February." and KREM 2 are subsidiaries of Belo Corp., one of the nation's largest pure-play publicly-traded television companies, with annual revenue of approximately $775 million. The Company owns and operates 20 television stations reaching more than 14 percent of U.S. television households, including ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, CW and MyNetwork TV affiliates and their associated Web sites, in 15 highly-attractive markets across the United States. Belo stations consistently deliver distinguished journalism for which they have received significant industry recognition including nine Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Silver Baton Awards; nine George Foster Peabody Awards; and 19 national Edward R. Murrow Awards all since 2000, and in each case more than any other commercial station group in the nation. Nearly all Belo stations rank first or second in their local market. Belo owns stations in seven of the top 25 markets in the nation, with six stations located in the fast-growing, top-14 markets of Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, Seattle/Tacoma and Phoenix. Additionally, the Company has leveraged its local television assets to create regional cable news channels in Texas and the Northwest increasing its impact in those regions. Additional information is available at or by contacting Paul Fry, vice president/Investor Relations & Corporate Communications, at 214-977-6835.

For more information, contact KREM-TV Director of Technology John Souza at, or visit