Beginning this fall, Macon-based WPGA TV plans to become an affiliate of new networks focused on programming directed to a black audience.
Family-owned WPGA will become one of the first affiliates of a new network, KIN TV, expected to launch this fall, said WPGA general manager Debbie Hart. KIN is a minority owned and managed California-based network.
The network, which will carry movies, sitcoms, dramas and comedies featuring blacks, will be carried on WPGA’s current cable channels in Middle Georgia but it will also be available to people with antennas, Hart said.
“KIN will air shows that African-American viewers actually watch, not just programming that happens to feature black actors or themes,” according to a KIN pamphlet. “KIN’s programs will be designed, funded and produced by African-Americans.”
The launch date has not been set yet for the new network, which is partnering with MGM.
“We are sort of on their timetable right now,” Hart said of the KIN network. “They have been in negotiations with a big group that owns a lot of stations around the country. ... We are among the first (to get the new network) but we will be the first over-the-air station.”
KIN programs will not replace everything WPGA is now showing.
“It will just supplement what we have,” Hart said. “We will leave on shows like ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire?,’ ‘The Wendy Williams Show,’ ‘America’s Court with Judge Ross’ and ‘Law & Order.’ ”
Typically new networks such as KIN target sub-channels in a market.
“They will affiliate with a primary station in a market that will already have an affiliation with a network,” she said. “Our plan is to put KIN on (Cox cable) channel 6.”
It also will be shown on WPGA’s digital channel 58.1 for people who have a converter box and an antenna.
These new additions would give WPGA four networks, as it currently has This TV and ME TV.
KIN will start with “a good bit of original content, original programming,” she said. For example, it plans to have a show called “Mama vs. Mama,” which is a black Iron Chef featuring “down-home cooking between matriarchs vying to show off their flavor,” according to the pamphlet.
Another show, “Gospel Weight Challenge,” would feature two gospel choirs competing to see which choir lost the most weight from one Sunday to the next. Hart said this is the type of show that could be filmed in Macon and shown on the KIN network.
“It’s real exciting,” she said. “They have a lot of great ideas.”
But this is not the only new network WPGA is planning to offer.
“We haven’t really announced this yet, but we just signed a deal with the Bounce network,” Hart said. “Actually, they are a competitor with KIN. (It) is another new network coming on board targeting the African-American audience.”
Two of the Atlanta-based network’s initial investors in Bounce are Martin Luther King III and former Atlanta mayor and U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young. The Bounce network is launching Sept. 26, Hart said. In addition to carrying movies, faith-based shows and original programming, Bounce also will carry live sporting events.
This network will be shown only on WPGA’s digital 58.3.
Both Bounce and KIN plan to target blacks between 25 and 54 years old.
One of the reasons WPGA has decided to carry networks focusing on programming directed at a black audience is because of the demographics.
Blacks watch TV nearly 76 hours a week, compared to 59 hours for Hispanics and 54 hours for others, according to a 2010 PBS study.
The new networks will have some national advertisers that have already signed on and WPGA will be selling time for local advertisements, Hart said. These, too, will be directed to its black audience.
“That’s valuable real estate for advertisers when they have dedicated eyes,” she said. “That’s exciting for us. We are looking forward to those opportunities.”
WPGA continues battle with cable company
Lowell Register, president and CEO of Register Communications, which owns WPGA, said the new KIN network on Cox cable channel 6 would not affect its ongoing battle with the cable company.
“It’s not relevant,” Register said. “I could run color bars on there.”
The station and Cox have had a running disagreement for more than a year after WPGA dropped the ABC network.
WPGA contended that an FCC ruling in July 2010 that classified WPGA as a “must-carry” station meant that Cox would have to keep the station in its lineup and in the same spot. But Cox officials have said that the FCC ruling also said that any side agreements between Cox and WPGA would take precedence over the FCC’s decision. Cox’s position is that WPGA entered into a “retransmission consent” agreement with Cox in 2008 and that agreement trumps the “must-carry” status.
According to FCC rules, a station must be classified as one or the other.
Last month, WPGA took its case against Cox Communications to federal court seeking an injunction after the Georgia Court of Appeals upheld a Bibb County Superior Court ruling that dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Macon TV station against the cable company.
Cox was set to pull WPGA off its channel 6 on July 28, but July 27, Cox learned that WPGA had asked the FCC to issue a ruling on the issue, which it agreed was the appropriate place for resolution of the issue, so Cox agreed to leave WPGA on channel 6 until the FCC came to a decision.
However, Register said last month since Cox “rescinded their letter of termination” there was nothing for the FCC to rule on and that Cox “dropped it because they didn’t have a case. I am a must-carry station and they are not going to take me off.”
This week, Register said nothing has changed.
“If (Cox) wants the FCC to rule, then I guess they will need to proceed with it, which is fine,” he said.
According to an e-mail from Cox on Thursday morning, the FCC has responded to WPGA’s request for an emergency ruling.
“Per the FCC, Cox’s response is due Aug. 25. WPGA’s reply is due Sept. 7,” according to an e-mail from Mary Bowman, Cox community relations manager for Middle Georgia. “This action was prompted after WPGA filed an appeal with the FCC on July 31.”
Register: Cox fight hurt business
Register said the fight with Cox has damaged his business.
“They might bankrupt me. ... They may put me out of business,” he said. “My legal fees are horrendous, but the reality is they cannot take me off the cable system.”
The situation with Cox is not Register’s only financial hurdle.
At least two liens have been filed recently against the Register Communications also known as Radio Perry.
Broadcast Music Co., which collects license fees from businesses that use music and then distributes royalty payments to songwriters, composers and music publishers, filed a lien in June against Register Communications for $14,550. The court documents show past due license fees going back to 2009 for WPGA-TV, WPGA-FM and WPGA-AM. A response from WPGA was not filed and the State Court of Bibb County issued a judgment of $15,347, which included interest and court costs.
Also, a federal tax lien of $16,220 was filed in November against Radio Perry by the Internal Revenue Service for unpaid employment taxes for several quarters going back to 2007, according to court documents filed in Bibb County Superior Court.
“We probably owe a lot of money, but I don’t want to get into how much I owe all these people,” Register said. “We have been behind with those. Business has been very slow. (Cox) has cost me a lot of money. ... I owe a lot of people a lot of money and I owe a lot of legal fees.”
Register declined to say how much he has paid in legal bills.
“All I can say is that we are honest people, and we’re trying to pay the bills and we are trying to fight this big multi-billion dollar Cox cable company and we are trying to stay here. They may put us out of business -- they may well do it. The worse case I can do is probably sell out to somebody, and I may have to do that. If I do, I think I can pay the bills, but I don’t owe millions of dollars.”
Register said the economy also has hurt business, at the same time the company has had to build out its digital system.
“It’s taken its toll on the small family owned business,” he said. “And I’ve been treated pretty unfairly in this whole arena. ... It may be time for me to get out of it. ... I’ve got lots of people who are always interested, and I may have to take them up on it.”