NBC Universal's three L.A. stations have partnered with Transit TV to put local television news on buses run by Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority.


Under the deal, the stations KNBC-TV (Channel 4), KVEA-TV (Channel 52) and KWHY-TV (Channel 22) now provide five minutes of news content, half in English and half in Spanish, to Transit TV's hour-long program loop. Transit TV's network includes 2,200 MTA buses with a ridership of about 1.2 million county residents.


In return for the content, NBC will receive 30 seconds to promote its shows in English and 30 seconds in Spanish, plus the exposure of the news personalities to the captive audience on the bus.


"This is a non-cash deal for us," said Ginger Zumaeta, vice-president of advertising and promotion for the three stations. "They wanted local content to show the local ridership, so they were looking for a partner. We have the unique ability to reach the local audience in both English and Spanish."


Regular newsroom staff will produce two daily news briefs, one for the morning drive and another for the afternoon. In breaking news situations, NBC can update its segments for immediate wireless connection to receiving devices on the buses.


Transit TV, based in Florida, handles advertising sales and the investment in 4,400 screens. The company has similar deals with transit agencies in Chicago, Atlanta, Orlando, San Diego and Milwaukee. The screens have been in the buses since 2002, but the NBC deal only went into effect on Feb. 20.


Honky Tonk Demos

The return of country music to L.A. radio has more to do with consumer statistics than listener preference.


Last Monday, KKGO-FM (105.1) went on the air as the market's only country FM station, abandoning its long-time classical music format and call letters KMZT-FM. The station hopes to take over the audience left by KZLA-FM (93.9), which stopped playing country in late summer 2006.


The demographics behind the switch show country fans have an average age of 42 compared to 60 for classical listeners.


Unfortunately for advertisers, those older listeners had already made the big purchase decisions in their life and were quite content to enjoy them, said station owner Saul Levine.


"The country listener in this market is very comparable to the classical listener in terms of income. That's not the case in Florida or Alabama or Texas," Levine explained. "We had a huge audience for classical, but they weren't responding."


In contrast, in the country format advertisers "see instant action," Levine continued. When he tested the country format on his AM station last fall, country fans talked it up on Web sites and encouraged other fans to patronize advertisers to promote the genre.


The market likes that fast feedback. Last year Levine pitched Ford Motor Co. but the money-losing automaker responded that its ad budget was allocated for 2007.


Today the company still has the same budget, but plans to rework the pickup truck portion of it to open up money for advertising on KKGO.


Meanwhile, classical listeners can now hear Mozart and Bach on Levine's AM station, KMZT-AM (1260). The classical signal will simulcast on KKGO-FM's second digital channel, available to listeners with a high definition radio receiver.


Idol Summer

Producers of the L.A.-based TV show "American Idol" have found a new way to make money off the brand by targeting its younger fans. Idol Camp, a performing arts summer camp for children ages 12 to 15, will prepare future stars in a non-competitive environment.


The experience will include classes from celebrity guest performers, favorite former "American Idol" contestants and other industry professionals.


Daily instruction will run the gamut of "Idol" skills, from singing, dancing and acting to song composition and audition techniques. To alleviate stress, the wannabes can engage in traditional summer fun like swimming and field sports.


"The goal for our kids is to soar beyond their expectations; however, because Idol Camp is not a competition, every kid goes home a winner," said Keith Hindle, executive vice-president at FremantleMedia, the company behind "Idol."


The camp will take place in Northfield, Mass. According to FreeMantle, enrollment is limited.


But the camp "is not audition-based and does not guarantee entrance into the American Idol television series competition, nor will it provide inside information or any other advantage in the American Idol audition process."


Staff reporter Joel Russell can be reached at jrussell@labusinessjournal.com , or at (323) 549-5225, ext. 237.

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