“This is home,” reads one motto on the new set of KTHV-TV in Little Rock, and the home is newly remodeled.
Marty Schack, the station’s president and general manager, showed it off last week as on-air personalities Ed Buckner, Marlisa Goldsmith and Hayden Balgavy got a feeling for their new surroundings and technicians hung new LED lights.
Schack has transformed the environment at the CBS affiliate, with which Arkansas Business has a news-sharing agreement. He even persuaded the station’s owner, Tegna Inc. of Tysons, Virginia, to invest in a new set and new technologies for the Little Rock station.
The makeover of 720 Izard St., the TV station’s only home since it went on the air in November 1955, runs the gamut from new breakroom amenities to a vast 2,000-SF newsroom now free of cubicles. Portraits of the station’s 85 employees adorn a hallway wall, featuring personal touches like anchor and former Miss Kansas Amanda Jaeger seemingly leaping over a basset hound.
But Schack’s pride is the new 2,000-SF news set, timed to debut with two new programs, “Wake Up Central” at 5 a.m. and “630 Central,” named for its time slot — 6:30 p.m. — and for Interstate 630, which runs just a block or two to the west. That show will be led by longtime THV11 anchor Dawn Scott. “Wake Up Central” was set to make its debut Oct. 28, with “630 Central” premiering the following day. Meteorologist Sarah Fortner will join Scott on the program.
“It’s going to be really cool working in this new setting,” Scott said. “The show is going to be way, way local, and driven by news and ideas. We’re looking forward to it,” she said. Fortner, who recently returned to THV11 after a stint in another market, called KTHV a family. “Dawn was even in my wedding!” she said. “I look forward to being part of the conversation, and to hearing from Arkansans each night on what’s important to them.”
That reference was to a reader comment segment, said Schack. He wouldn’t say exactly what the new set cost, but industry insiders guessed the final tab at about a half-million dollars.
That includes new technology, including an advanced video monitor system called a matrix wall. “The whole goal here with the new studio and all the video monitors was to really show off the beauty of the state,” Schack said. “We wanted the look to be warm, with the distressed brick look,” but he also wanted to highlight technology.
“All the lights are LED, and everything’s new,” said Schack, who succeeded Michael Caplan as the station’s chief in April 2018 after running it in an interim role the previous year. Asked if the lighting would cut the heavy electricity use common in TV production, Schack smiled. “I’ve factored the savings into next year’s budget.”
“Wake Up Central” will feature anchors Laura Monteverdi, Rob Evans and Jaeger, and its tone should reflect a “refreshed and innovative vision for morning news,” Schack said. Meteorologist Adam Bowles will join the team sometime next month.
Though the set is new, it’s a throwback in spirit to the beginnings of KTHV, which was born with state-of-the-art equipment in the infancy of commercial TV in Arkansas. The complex on Izard Street went up in 1954 as the first broadcasting facility in the state built for both radio and television. KTHV was on the first floor, with KTHS radio occupying the second.
“This is our home, and it has been for over 50 years,” Schack said. “But we’re proud of these upgrades, and looking forward to showing off the set,” he said. “Not only do I feel invigorated, but I think Arkansas will be, too.”