Ezra Kucharz knows that making local media viable— and profitable—in the multiplatform age is tricky, but it ain’t rocket science. Unlike others who toss that phrase around, the CBS Local Digital Media president knows a thing or two about aeronautical affairs: He worked for NASA years ago as an engineer for space station medical operations.
Having long since traded the space space for the online one, Kucharz—who joined CBS in February—is tasked with maximizing content and revenue possibilities for the CBS-owned local TV and local radio stations by getting them to better complement each other in their shared markets. Kucharz is working on the prototype for the joint Websites CBS will launch in the markets where it owns both radio and television properties. Slated for a midsummer unveiling, the joint New York Website will be the first of three to five sites to debut this year.
CBS has taken major steps to hone its local digital strategy, and it’s up to the 42-year-old Kucharz to execute. His goal is for the CBS local sites to be the go-to news and information resources in their markets. “There’s been a lot of great work done to get the radio and TV stations online, and now it’s about getting it to scale and generating revenue,” he says.
After a long stint in the Army reserves and his time at NASA, the bulk of Kucharz’s career has been spent in the digital world, from launching the online sports publisher Total Sports with some grad-school buddies, to serving as COO at iVillage, to being president at the IAC/Dow Jones site FiLife.com.
CBS Local Media COO Anton Guitano says Kucharz’s mix of high-level Web experience and a background in finance made him an ideal fit to spearhead CBS’ local media efforts. “We were looking for someone with creative ideas about how to move forward, but also someone who has the financial acumen to understand this is really a business,” he says. “Ezra is innovative and creative, and he’s also a really good businessman.”