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His Life Changed, Ex-Con Thrives on the Air - Broadcasting & Cable

His Life Changed, Ex-Con Thrives on the Air

A.M. host is well-qualified to helm ‘Changed Lives’ segments for Sinclair’s San Antonio station
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When Sinclair's KABB kicked off its “Changed Lives” franchise a year ago, highlighting locals who have turned their lives around, the station had an interesting choice for its first subject—its own morning host. Esteban Solis had spent close to four years in prison before ending up at the Fox station. These days, he cohosts KABB’s thriving Daytime @ 9 program.

“I was never a bad person,” Solis says in the bit. “I just made bad choices.”

A Changed Life

Solis’ troubles started in 2002, when he was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon stemming from a brawl at a party. Four years later, a DUI charge violated his probation and put Solis in prison. After spending three years and nine months behind bars, he struggled to find work. But with an aptitude for sales and an entrepreneurial bent, Solis approached WOAI-KABB general manager John Seabers with a batch of digital marketing products. Seabers turned him down. Solis followed up with a pitch about sponsored segments in the morning show, and Seabers listened further.

Given his background, Solis was offered a three-month part-time role. Seabers says there were concerns on staff about the new hire, but “they’re easily overcome as you get to know Esteban. He’s a husband, a dad, a tax-paying homeowner.”

Solis turned the tryout into a full-time position in July 2013. It’s a hybrid role that comprises both sales and representing his clients on-air. Solis says he’s been candid about his past. “I’m not going to lie to viewers,” he says. “I was always upfront.”

Seabers calls him a natural TV presence. “He looks like he’s from San Antonio, he sounds like he’s from San Antonio,” says the GM. “The way Esteban presents himself creates a connection with the community.”

Daytime @ 9 was No. 2 in its time slot in the February sweeps, well behind Live With Kelly and Michael but ahead of Great Day San Antonio on KENS. While Solis’ early stints on the air were raw, fellow Daytime host Kimberly Crawford believes he found his voice relatively quickly. “The main thing he had to learn was to be himself,” she says. “Then the rest falls into place.”

One talent consultant with interests in the San Antonio market calls Solis “a natural communicator.”

Besides his dual roles at WOIA-KABB, which include hosting “Changed Lives,” Solis represents the station at the district attorney’s office, sheriff’s department and other law enforcement entities around town, speaking on the merits of good choices. “They feel he’s got a great story to tell and can maybe change people’s paths,” says Seabers.

Looking ahead on his own path, Solis is intent on sticking with the morning show; Seabers says the host’s personality is better suited for lifestyle than news. Solis expresses gratitude to Seabers for taking a chance on him. Seabers gives Solis credit for turning his life around. “We cracked the door open a little bit,” he says. “Esteban is the one who knocked it down.”

MERGER BY NUMBERS: SCRIPPS, JOURNAL BECOME ONE

Hours before the Scripps-Journal merger was official, Rich Boehne, Scripps chairman/ president/CEO, and Brian Lawlor, senior VP of television, took a break from their station tour to speak about the expanded Scripps group. “There’s real excitement building inside the stations,” said Lawlor, calling in from Lansing, Mich. “There’s an energy and a buzz and people are ready to get things going.”

Both men spoke of Scripps getting deeper in its markets, with television and radio common in some, and Boehne provided an update on the subscription model at WCPO. com in the Scripps home market of Cincinnati. “I’d like to believe there’s a revenue stream there that’s meaningful,” said Boehne, who did not provide details about extending the model to other markets.

Parting with the newspaper division, he added, was emotional. “It’s not something I want to have to do again,” Boehne said.

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