Steve Carlston likes to get involved in just about everything at KNBC (Channel 4), from overseeing the efforts to attract more “Likes” for the station’s Facebook page to increasing sales of 30-second ad spots. But Carlston’s interests outside of the office are even more eclectic. After hours, he can be found cruising his Studio City neighborhood on a longboard, traveling to his grandson’s T-ball games or listening to Eminem. The L.A. native even drops the occasional “dude” and quotes Jeff Spicoli from “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” But there’s no denying Carlston’s focus on reviving KNBC, which is trying to regain the perch its 11 p.m. newscast held atop the local ratings 10 years ago. The station finished the November ratings sweeps in a close third in Los Angeles for that time period – behind KABC (Channel 7) and KCBS (Channel 2). But Carlston, a self-described competitor, doesn’t expect to stay behind for long. He took over the station in late 2011 after Comcast Corp. purchased a majority stake in the station’s parent company, NBCUniversal. He’s since overseen a reinvestment in news coverage that he hopes will help get the station back on top of the ratings pile. Carlston sat down with the Business Journal at the NBCUniversal lot in Burbank recently to talk about what it was like living as a Mormon in Las Vegas, how he challenged Michael Jordan, and his belief that TV is still a growth business.
Question: I understand there are a lot of changes happening here. What’s the biggest one since you came on as GM a couple years ago?
Answer: Probably the biggest thing we all identified as department heads is that there was a need for a cultural change.
It had been under the GE ownership for 10 years and they had a way of doing things. I’m not so sure they had the same thought process of the growth of TV and that it could still be a growth business. One of the great benefits (under Comcast) is you have Steve Burke, who’s the president of the entire thing, and he believes in television. Valari Staab (president of NBC-owned TV stations) has been in the television business all of her life and she believes. Now you have a general manager who believes just as much as they do and you have a staff that wants to believe again.
So how does that play out at your station?
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