Harry Pappas was 18 when he started what is now a 36-year entrepreneurial run in the broadcasting business. In 1964, he and his older twin brothers (Mike and Pete, both now deceased) scraped together about $25,000 to buy their first radio station. By 1966, they were into FM and country-music formats before either, as the song goes, was cool.
In 1971, Pappas and his brothers made the leap to independent television against what he calls a "background of failure" in the Fresno-Visalia, Calif., market. Seven different owners had tried to make a go of four independent stations there, and "they'd all failed," says Pappas.
But the times and the regulatory environment were changing. The FCC adopted the financial-interest and syndication rules, which gave independent stations a competitive leg up. The Pappases exploited the opportunity and made it work, first at kmph-tv Visalia, still Pappas Telecasting's flagship station, and then at other stations, which have subsequently allied with Fox, The WB and UPN.
Pappas, now 54, swapped his radio holdings for his brothers' TV holdings in 1977 and has focused primarily on TV ever since. The move into Spanish TV, he says, is similar, "in terms of the philosophical underpinning," to earlier moves. "Usually, the greater gains in value are in recognizing a durable trend in its early phases."