OK City GM Envisions Success 'Sooner' Rather Than Later

Serial entrepreneur Vince Orza trying to make local TV thunder in heartland

Local TV executives
frequently talk about increasing
a station’s local
presence. But for most, that translates
to tacking on another halfhour
of news every now and then.
For KSBI Oklahoma City, and its
supercharged general manager,
however, it’s nothing short of a
full-scale commitment to homegrown
programming up and
down a schedule that includes live
music, quiz shows, dog shows,
hunting and fishing programs and
a daily sports wrap-up.

After a colorful career that includes
founding and running a
restaurant company, overseeing a
business school, running for governor
of Oklahoma (twice) and
serving as a local news anchor,
entrepreneur Vince Orza is up for
another major challenge—bringing
a flat-lining TV station back
to life. “In a 5-6-7 station market,
KSBI was No. 10,” he says. “My
charge from the owners was, build
a station we can be proud of.”

Orza has built things in the
past, including Eateries Inc.,
which includes the Garfield’s restaurant
chain and which he describes
as a $100 million company
with 3,000 employees. He was
dean of the Oklahoma City University
business school, where
he got to know prominent local
business figures, including energy
tycoons Aubrey McClendon
and Tom L. Ward, who—outside
of their oil concerns—are owners
of the NBA’s Oklahoma City
Thunder and long struggling independent
station KSBI.

Orza and Jerry Hart, a pal from
their time together at KOCO
Oklahoma City decades before,
were approached about turning
the station around. After submitting
a proposal, Orza was named
president and CEO in late 2010,
and Hart became KSBI’s vice president
and operations manager.

One of the first things Orza did
was scrap local news, while playing
up entertainment and sports.
“We didn’t need to be in the fire
and murder business,” he says.

With Oklahoma City undergoing
a revival—the market hopped
from DMA No. 44 to No. 41 in
the most recent Nielsen rankings—
KSBI chose to focus on
the positive.

The station’s Oklahoma Live set
is a testament to Orza’s entrepreneurial
bent. Bob Mills Furniture
outfitted the set, and Oklahoma
Natural Gas built the kitchen for
the weekday entertainment show.

Orza has a long way to go to get
people to watch, but he says KSBI
should break even in six to 12
months. “We had no ratings to begin
with,” he says. “But we’ve established
ourselves, and now have
numbers throughout the day.”

In a year’s time, KSBI can pull
in 5%-7% of the market’s revenue,
he estimates—as much as
$7 million a year.

The other Oklahoma City stations
do not see KSBI as competition.
Local TV executives say Orza
is a savvy businessman, but stress
that he inherited some seriously
damaged goods. “He’s trying something
different, but what I look at
is ratings,” says John Rossi, KOKHKOCW
general manager. “When
KSBI’s ratings start to move, we’ll
evaluate what they do.”

Orza is unbowed. He’s seeking
a national sponsor for the Mind
quiz show, has added SEC
football, aligned with MyNetworkTV
and features This TV on
KSBI’s dot-two. “The station has
come a very long way,” he says,
“in a short period of time.”

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