Fifth Estater

This Local TV Dean Really Wants to Be Frank

Spencer Koch could have a career in music, if he ever leaves television 11/28/2010 11:01:00 PM Eastern

Spencer Koch

Title: President/GM, KTVI-KPLR

Education: B.A., Business Administration, Emory U., 1973.

Employment: Production Asst., New York Mets/ WWOR New York, 1967-’71; Production Asst., WAGA Atlanta, 1972- ’73; Account Exec, Storer TV, 1975-’78; National Sales Manager, WAGA, 1979- ’83; General Sales Manager, WJW Cleveland, 1983-’89; Station Manager/ VP of Sales, WJBK Detroit, 1989-’95; VP/ GM, KTVI St. Louis, 1995- ’08; current title since ‘08.

Personal: Born 6/1/51, Staten Island, N.Y.
Married to Laura; children Spencer (27), Kate (24)

It was at the 2004 Fox affiliates meeting in Las Vegas,
which featured an American Idol competition with
the station executives doing the performing, that Spencer Koch showed his true mettle.
Armed with musical genes and a deep
knowledge of the Frank Sinatra songbook,
Koch agreed to belt out a tune in
front of the packed Bellagio ballroom.

Ryan Seacrest was there. So was News
Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch—Koch’s
boss at the time. “When I saw Mr. Murdoch
walk in,” he says, “I called my wife
and said, “My career is officially over.”

In fact, Koch nailed Ol’ Blue Eyes’
“Luck Be a Lady” and won the GMs’
Idol competition handily. “It came off
pretty well,” Koch says with a laugh.
“Everything worked out fine.”

While some reluctantly face their challenges,
others, such as the KTVI-KPLR
St. Louis president/GM, relish the opportunity
to tackle something difficult.
WGHP Greensboro (N.C.) President/
GM Karen Adams, who has known Koch
for 34 years, calls him the “dean” of Local
TV general managers due to his vast
experience. “Spencer’s been in so many
markets and roles, and has made a tremendous
impact everywhere he’s gone,”
Adams says. “He knows this business,
and knows how to move it forward.”

Koch faced an even stiffer challenge
when he was tasked with merging Local
TV’s KTVI and Tribune’s KPLR into the
same facility in 2008, meshing disparate
cultures and dealing with downsizing
while keeping both stations on the air.
(Tribune and Local TV stations share services
in a unique arrangement.)

The move capped off an eventful year,
to say the least. “The market went to
[local people meters], digital television went into effect, and we had the worst
economy in the history of the country,
outside of the Great Depression,” Koch
recalls. “All that was going on while we
moved KTVI in with KPLR.”

New York, New York

Koch’s career started at WWOR New
York, working on Mets telecasts. The job
offered the Staten Island native a frontrow
seat for the historic 1969 World Series.
“Being a Yankee fan,” Koch quips,
“working for the Mets was a challenge.”

Koch moved on to WAGA Atlanta,
and later hopped to the sales-rep side
with Storer TV. His first GM job came
when he was named boss at KTVI in
1995. Koch has survived several ownership
changes; the station was part of New
World, then was acquired by Fox, before Fox sold it to Local TV in ’08.

KTVI competes against one of the true
legacy stations in St. Louis NBC affiliate
KSDK. Koch is quick to voice respect for
the market leader, but feels his duopoly
can offer things the Gannett powerhouse
cannot. As befits the Local TV name, KTVI-
KPLR blankets the airwaves with 70
hours of local programming each week.
A partnership with DataSphere offers hyper-
local Websites covering community
news, and its STLMoms.com takes the
fight directly to KSDK’s MomsLikeMe.
com. “When you give viewers nine hours
of content a day, hopefully you start to
get them on your side,” says Koch.

Pam Taylor, Local TV president/
COO, says the group’s GMs take their
cues from the golden-throated guy in
St. Louis. “Spencer straight-up knows
the markets, the stations, the business,
the people,” Taylor says. “We let him do
what he does, and don’t get in his way.”

Love and Marriage

As he showed that night at the Bellagio,
music—along with his wife of 30
years, Laura—is a constant in Koch’s life.
He’s a student of St. Louis’ rich musical
heritage. A vintage Steinway piano sits in
the stations’ library, and the morning and
4 p.m. local programs are loaded with
live performances. “It can be distracting
when you have a meeting and you hear a
parade going through,” Koch says.

Adams, for one, says Koch always has
a forum for his talents in Greensboro.
“Spencer is a mensch,” she says. “I’d have
him on my morning show every day.”

E-mail comments to mmalone@nbmedia.com and follow him
on Twitter: @StationBiz

Spencer Koch

Title: President/GM, KTVI-KPLR

Education: B.A., Business Administration, Emory U., 1973.

Employment: Production Asst., New York Mets/ WWOR New York, 1967-’71; Production Asst., WAGA Atlanta, 1972- ’73; Account Exec, Storer TV, 1975-’78; National Sales Manager, WAGA, 1979- ’83; General Sales Manager, WJW Cleveland, 1983-’89; Station Manager/ VP of Sales, WJBK Detroit, 1989-’95; VP/ GM, KTVI St. Louis, 1995- ’08; current title since ‘08.

Personal: Born 6/1/51, Staten Island, N.Y.
Married to Laura; children Spencer (27), Kate (24)

 

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