2015 was a big year for Jonesboro TV. For decades, the de facto capital of northeast Arkansas existed with one commercial television station: KAIT, Channel 8, launched in 1963 as an independent station and an ABC affiliate since 1965.
The last calendar year, however, saw KAIT launch an NBC affiliate in January, and in June, Waypoint Media launched KJNB, Channel 39, as a Fox affiliate. It added CBS in August.
For decades, viewers in northeast Arkansas had relied on Memphis to round out their local programming, with helpings of Little Rock and even Cape Girardeau and Paducah thrown in.
And while Jonesboro has long been the home of an affiliate of the public Arkansas Educational Television Network, KAIT had its run of the region in terms of hyper-local TV programming. It now has competition.
KJNB is Waypoint’s latest venture, and it fits nicely inside the corporation’s TV portfolio that includes stations in similarly sized markets such as Jackson, Tennessee; Meridian, Mississippi; and Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Officially, Jonesboro is the nation’s No. 181 TV market, and it’s now one that can boast all four major over-the-air broadcast networks.
Bill Lane, group vice president for the Jonesboro and Jackson markets, thinks it’s about time Jonesboro had more local options.
“Competition is a good thing. Competition makes everyone better,” he said. “Can you imagine if there was only one Jonesboro bank, hospital, car dealer or furniture retailer? Jonesboro has grown and continues to grow enough to accommodate more than one TV station, which was the case for over 50 years.”
Lane said the local reception to KJNB’s arrival in town has been “overwhelmingly positive.”
“The entire community has welcomed us with open arms,” he said. “We’ve been struck by the warmth of this market and the genuine neighborly feel. People have literally said to us, ‘We’re so glad you’re here.’ I can’t speak for any other stations in the market, but we’ve been told that our market entry has already resulted in improvements and in our short time here, a positive impact.”
The feeling at Raycom-owned KAIT seems to be mutual. Chris Conroy, vice president and general manager, told Outtakes that his station welcomes the competition.
“It makes us all better,” he said. “At Region 8, KAIT’s mission remains the same. We’re here to serve our viewers the way we always have over the past half century.”
Aside from the old adage that competition makes all players better, Lane believes KJNB’s entry into the market is good for other reasons. He said the local community — business, educational, nonprofit — is negatively impacted when stations based in adjacent markets “invite” viewers to eat, shop and seek professional services outside of Jonesboro and the surrounding region.
“Jonesboro has some of the top hospitals, banks, entertainment and retail in the state,” he said. “By providing two new outlets to promote, market and advertise these businesses, events and causes, we know that revenue and human resources will remain and grow in Jonesboro and help boost our economy.”
Lane said KJNB is reaching 100 percent of the market through cable systems, over-the-air and alternate delivery systems (ADS) such as satellite. He noted that satellite providers Direct TV and Dish provide the KJNB signal to more Jonesboro homes than any single cable system and that roughly 9 percent of the market receives KJNB “over the air” (older readers, think rabbit ears).
“That’s fairly common from market to market,” Lane said. “Roughly 93 percent of the homes in the market receive broadcast signals through ADS or cable, the other 7 percent over the air.”
Lane foresees much growth ahead for Jonesboro’s new station — too many changes to share, he said — but is excited by the immediate future. The next two Super Bowls will be broadcast on CBS and Fox, and viewers in northeast Arkansas will get to watch them on KJNB.
“With a local CBS and FOX affiliate and some of the high-profile programming and events that we’ll have, including the next two Super Bowls, and the ability to promote locally, we’ll help market local entities and provide a positive economic and cultural impact by keeping it local,” he said.