Over the past decade, KTTV-TV Channel 11 has gone from a sleepy local station to Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Los Angeles powerhouse emerging as the most-watched station on weeknights among men and women aged 18 to 54.
KTTV is perhaps best known as the local outlet for “The Simpsons” and Fox’s slightly naughty situation comedies. But the locally produced programming is also making an impact. The station’s 10 p.m. newscast, for example, has toppled longtime champion KTLA-TV Channel 5 as the news leader in its time slot.
Diana L. Vargas has been a key part of the station’s success. Recently promoted to the position of general manager, Vargas started at KTTV in 1988 as advertising account executive. She rose to general sales manager in 1994 before making the move to station general manager last January.
Vargas, one of seven women general managers at Fox’s 22 stations, had previously worked at KCOP-TV Channel 13 in Los Angeles and Group W Productions in New York.
Question: How different is it at KTTV compared to when you started here nine years ago?
Answer: We were a completely different station back then. First of all we were just starting to launch our prime (shows in prime time). Nine years ago we had two nights of prime. We were known as the Dodgers station. Years ago people didn’t really define Channel 11 in the same breath as Fox television, so we were just developing our own brand identity. We were always really strong with kids.
Q: Will you shift away from children’s programming?
A: We’ll definitely be more broad-based. We start the day with the young kids, and as our day continues our programming starts to bring in the teen audience and the 18-to-34 audience and the 18-to-49 audience and the 25-to-54 audience. We won’t stop doing what helped put us on the map, but as we continue to grow we start to evolve that audience and they stay with us. I think that that after 10 years of programming, this television station hasn’t lost its core audience.
Q: What’s the secret to the station’s success?
A: It’s stability and growth. I think that our audience sees us as a station that not only identifies with its community but also program product that the community can identify with. I think that in the last several years we have definitely been a station that has increased its viewership. As for the advertising community, they know that we’re a good investment.
Q: Being a woman, was it difficult for you to get to where you are now?
A: It’s interesting because … just now is when I really started to think of myself as a woman in this role because everyone is asking me that question.
I’ve always been so focused, and I forge ahead, and I’m always looking at what’s right in front of me. I’m not looking at myself as a representative of (women), or a representative of this age group or this ethnicity.
The one thing I could really say about Fox, and the reason why I love this company, is that (the moves) I have managed to make have been earned. I’ve always been asked the tough questions, and if I didn’t have the answers, I was as accountable as the next guy.
Q: What inspires you?
A: That’s an easy one. When I came here I moved here from New York, I didn’t have any family here and I wasn’t necessarily thinking I’d be here for as many years as I’ve now been. When I first came to work at this television station, I made it a personal goal to make this be the place that I wanted to go to every day. Not many people have that feeling of fulfillment.
Q: How much time do you spend watching TV?
A: I can’t commit myself for more than two hours. Most of my viewing is all done in the morning news shows and late news shows and maybe a total hour and a half at night of prime time, and that’s scattered.
Q: How many TV sets do you have at home?
A: Two. One in my bedroom and one in my living room.
Q: For the past year KTTV has won the 10 p.m. news ratings. How did you do that?
A: We’ve become a more well-rounded newscast. We’re not just telling you the news, we’re part of it. We’re very hard hitting in terms of our investigative unit and I think that’s helped our newscast in many ways.
I do want to give credit to our news director Jose Rios. He’s been instrumental in putting the current team together and he’s great at his job.
Q: Some of your rival stations have said that it’s the lead-in shows that attracts your news audience.
A: I think for any television station it’s a flow of the day. Whatever is immediately leading into a newscast does matter. But we have also proven that even without the lead-in we’re able to deliver that audience. So it’s a combination. If you were dying in ratings going into your 10 o’clock news cast could you be affected? Absolutely.
Q: What are the biggest challenges you face as KTTV’s general manager?
A: Maintaining the successes once you’ve achieved them. In terms of ratings, in terms of programming, picking the right product I think that that’s one of the biggest challenges.
What happens is, when you’re working toward achieving the station’s goals, not everyone is always paying attention. They’re busy battling it out. The ones that are No. 1 are looking at the one that’s No. 2 and making sure that it doesn’t become No. 1. All eyes are on you and everyone’s paying attention to what you are doing.
No one was looking out for what KTTV was doing and now the spotlight is all over this television station. So what happens is, when you think you did it the best that you possibly could, you’ve got to do it even better and that’s the toughest thing. It’s the hardest challenge.
Diana L. Vargas
Company: KTTV-TV Channel 11
Position: General Manager
Born: New York, 1961
Education: Hunter College, New York; BA
Career Turning Point: Joining KTTV in 1988 as an account executive
Hobbies: Reading, rollerblading