Tuesday, January 17, 2017

New KPRC building moves channel 2 into 21st century

MIKEMCGUFF.COM EXCLUSIVE: As the first new TV station to be built in Houston since the 1990s, KPRC is building for the future of TV and employee happiness - get your first look

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Dave Strickland and Jerry Martin in new KPRC 2 newsroom SEE MORE PHOTOS

As I followed KPRC 2 VP/General Manager Jerry Martin through the hallways of the Graham Media Group station's future home, it became apparent that he has paid close attention to every little detail.

"Yeah, it's taken up a lot of extra time every day," Martin told mikemcguff.com. "So there's a lot on the general manager to get it done and get it done on time, on budget, etc. So it's my baby, yeah."

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Still required to wear hardhats, the tour of Martin, news director Dave Strickland and myself encountered busy construction workers in practically every nook and cranny of the building site.

A representative from DPR Construction told me it has around 100 staffers working on the new 65,000 square foot station, being built directly behind KPRC's soon-to-be old building in the former parking lot. The current station has been there since the early 1970s.

"It was a great building, and I'm not trying to say anything about the architecture or this building, but it just doesn't lend itself to 2016 broadcasting," Martin admitted. "So, normally I think what would've happened is we would've just rehabbed this building, done a serious rehab. And we looked at that. But at the end of the day, we ended up with, a better building, but not a great building. And when we looked at building one in our own parking lot and we did the math on it, the difference between rehabbing this one the correct way and a new building, it wasn't too much of a difference."

And 2016 broadcasting means lots of computer servers and thousands of cable runs. The new building keeps all of that in mind, plus growth for KPRC's digital strategies with two control rooms and studios.

Then there is the employee morale factor.

The current KPRC newsroom looks like a bunker. That's because it was the home of the NBC affiliate's newscasts from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s. As a result there could be no windows. Once the news set was moved back to its own studio, the news department now lives in a big gray room with fluorescent lighting. A few artifacts from the old set remain. One employee joked to me it was hard to tell when Hurricane Ike was actually hitting the building with its Brutalist architecture fortress motif.

"In our present newsroom, you wouldn't know if you're working the midnight shift or if you're working at four o'clock in the afternoon," Martin said. "So, I think for employee morale, it'll be a big deal."

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New KPRC 2 newsroom SEE MORE PHOTOS

The new KPRC newsroom will be all about light and have an open concept feel similar to what you would think of an internet company. But like those dot com companies, I'm doubting there will be a foosball table and beer pong area...after all it is still a news operation! And forget about fluorescent lighting - the new station is all LED.

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Balcony (inside view) SEE MORE PHOTOS

Part of the little details that Martin pointed out to me were an upstairs balcony in the sales department where all employees can get sun light and fresh air. It's an idea Martin had from living in a condo with a big balcony.

"It's a good option for people on both floors, second floor or first floor to get outside, but not be in an enclosed space where, if it rains or happens to rain, you're not going to get rained on at all," Martin explained.

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Old and new buildings with tower SEE MORE PHOTOS

That balcony has a covered walkway jutting out of it for employees coming to/leaving work from the parking lot. Then it donned on me. How many TV stations have I ever been to that have covered employee walkways? Not many.

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The central area SEE MORE PHOTOS

Next, what Martin calls, "the wow factor." The central part of the building could be called the Times Square of KPRC where all department wings come together in a lounge area enclosed by a grand staircase. Not only is this interior part the center of the station's universe, but much like Times Square, it also has some dazzle. A giant illuminated seven foot KPRC 2 logo will adorn the wall. Martin says employees can work, meet and socialize here.

KPRC management hopes the openness and flow of the new building will lead to collaboration between employees, because unlike the current building, someone from one department could actually run into someone from another. They realized the benefit of department-wide collaboration during the station's annual Habitat for Humanity community building project.

"You end up talking and working with people that you don't necessarily see on a day-to-day basis," KPRC news director Dave Strickland told mikemcguff.com. "And it's really nice, and I think that's what makes this place so unique."

Bottom line, beyond the need for technical upgrades, station management thinks the new building will help keep good employees and attract new ones. Especially as KPRC 2 has steadily moved up in the TV ratings over the last years and has good momentum going forward.

"It's a competitive business, and I think if people are considering Houston as a place to work in the TV business, that's an advantage that we're gonna have," Martin told me. "And we think we have an advantage as it is because we have a very solid management team. And we've got continuity going back now that we didn't have when I got here. We've got much better communication throughout the building, and I think this will just enhance that when we get there."

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As the station opens a new chapter with its new building, it closes another as it will demolish the long-time current building. It's location will become the parking lot. I'm told the iconic KPRC tower that decorates the I-69/Highway 59 corridor will remain. A tall vertical KPRC sign will cover the front left side of the new gray and black building.

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The new studio SEE MORE PHOTOS

March is the projected time for the first wave of staffers to move into the new building. Houston TV viewers will probably actually see a newscast from the new station in April. Martin told there will be a brand new set too. Don't ask me for details on how that will look since the studio is still under construction. There wasn't even a hint of a set in the room yet.

Meanwhile, excited KPRC employees will have to wait for their move-in day and continue parking in temporary lots. Minor discomfort aside, staffers still work interrupted in their current building and then get a chance to work in the first new television station built in Houston since FOX moved KRIV to its new studio in the 1990s.

"The statement that Graham's making and that Emily [Barr] (President & Chief Executive Officer of Graham Media Group) was making is Houston is a very important part of our station group," Martin added. "And that they're investing in the future, and they believe in broadcasting."

RELATED
- FULL COVERAGE: New KPRC 2 studio building for 2017
- KPRC 2 to get a new station, plus secret of current building
- KPRC 2 new studio construction begins

DID YOU KNOW?

KPRC channel 2 and AM were originally on Post Oak near where the Williams Tower stands today. Former 950 KPRC employee, Jim Bell, told me the old spot was actually across the street by the lake where Hidalgo and Richmond sit today.

Bill Bremer sent me this photo.

Gary Griffin of Retronuvo Media adds that KPRC's original building was a Quonset hut down Loop 610 West behind what is now the giant Houston Community College (HCC) building. That was back when the call letters were KLEE-TV.



24 comments:

  1. McGuff: Will KPRC-TV have a different news studio set considering that includes the downtown skyline ?

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    1. All I know is that it will be a new set. No idea what it will look like.

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  2. Kind of reminds me of the magnificent train stations that were being built as railroad travel was diminishing and the railroads were going out of business back in the 20th century. I guess part of the justification for the upgrade is that the facility will be highly automated. Translated, that means fewer employees. Time for the legions of kids who major in college in broadcast journalism to smell the coffee and realize that there might not be slot at a TV station for them after they graduate. Even if they get a job, it will probably never pay as much as their parents blue collar union jobs plus they will still have to figure out a way to pay for tens of thousands of college loans.

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  3. If KPRC is getting a completely new set, and not moving its current set into the new building... hopefully KPRC (and Graham Media Group) will select WrightSet for the new set project.

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    1. NOT A NEW SET LIKE FOX! NEW BUILDING YES1. BETTER SELECTION THAN WRIGHTSET WRIGHTSET. "MUCH BETTER"..

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  4. everyone thinks a new set and a new buidling will result in great ratings.. so Millennial thinking.

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  5. BTW. Sorry Fox. Your Set is not "The Future".. Channel 2 has the Set which will "Define 2017!"

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  6. KPRC just needs the lacking talent.

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  7. I love how all you guys keep bashing the KPRC talent. They're #1 now. You're not. Clearly they're doing something right.

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    Replies
    1. I'm not in the business... so don't say I'm not number 1.
      ..but I know talent when I see it.. and I don't at KPRC

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    2. I agree. Especially if you were watching this weekend and had to endure "Short Round" yet again.

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  8. Wow people sure do hate to see change

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  9. A building or set does not a newscast make. What matters most is the direction taken by managers, producers, reporters and photojournalists. Everything else is just icing on the cake.

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  10. I drove by the Channel 2 studios today and I noticed that on the tower, the sign facing 59 was gone. You could clearly see the labelscar of the old "Big 2" logo, which was on the sign from 1972 to 1985. That was surprising and neat to see. I'm glad that the tower is staying but it really needs to be cleaned or painted.

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  11. Why did Ch 2 send Dom Sachse to cover the inauguration? i know she has an ego and finds herself entitled to the good things in life, but she is a horrible reporter, features reporter and anchor (and fill-in Donchey was horrible at 10PM. Who thought it was a good idea to give her any more undeserved air time than her unfortunate contract requires?)

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    1. Too true! And Bill constantly calling her 'D' was annoying and unprofessional. She served no purpose there. All her reporting and 'inside scoop' nonsense could have easily been reported just as easily from the studio. I guess it was just an excuse to buy evening gowns on the boss' dime. Ridiculous.

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    2. It's embarrassing when he does that. Then again, it's embarrassing he was given a contract extension when he should've retired and been put out to pasture already. Both he and Sachse are not good.

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    3. Today's edition of the Can't Read Reyna Chronicles:

      If she were a record player, Can't Read Reyna's voice would be considered 16 RPM. And she still can't read news properly. (Today's deer in the headlights rib tickler - "Frontier Utilities" . Poor Jen was so clueless when she paused for what seemed like an eternity as she tried to read and say those tough words.)

      What's it been now, six years that her anchoring hobby has been in effect? Time to send her to a new role more fitting her skills. I'm thinking she can be the doorman at the new building?

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    4. Tonight Bill called Frank Billingsly "Franklin". I guess Strickland and his millennial "experts" are doing their best to try to give the moth ball pair of Bill and Dom perceived street cred. It ain't workin'...

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  12. She was horrible at the Rio Olympics; her "feature" on the Joel Oosteen cult was juvenile; and her daily appearances on TV are ridiculous. I know KPRC is trying to pimp her and others as local feel goods, but the fact is, Dom is a fake and a poor anchor/rep. (As are many others at KRAP 2.)
    Dom, Donchey, Reyna, Conflenti, Bill, McNeal, Rasta and Amy are absolutely HORRIBLE!

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  13. i'm hoping next year it will be kiah, keth will want to live inside kiah and form a new management, as 39 takes the path that univision and kirby drive took. speaking of will ktmd move in with kprc, since they are on that ownership? i want to say they want to add kltj to ktmd. tele world has been owned by nbc, since the year when kriv bought ktxh, as they 1st station to move out of kirby drive, like it did with kyaz on westpark drive, ktmd was 1st to move out. i know that god said westpark drive will be history, kirby has been over a decade, next it will be el camino real. i will keep praying for all that.

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  14. They were originally in a Quonset hut near the old Pin Oak Stables before they moved to the Post Oak studio. Those not familiar with that location it was near what is now the Pin Oak school and HCC campus on frontage road of the West loop between Fournace and Westpark

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