Say Aloha to Hawaii time

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[honolulu] -- For the last 30 years, Hawaiians have been hard-pressed to figure out when their favorite TV shows are on. TV stations, getting their videotaped network programming by boat, plane and now satellite, took advantage of the tape-delayed fare to add as many as eight extra minutes of local spots into their prime-time programming.

The result: Scheduling chaos and viewer frustration.

Gigi Valley, a Lanai resident, says she's annoyed with what's come to be known as Hawaii time and finds herself "a little less tolerant of accepting the advertising because of all the added commercials."

Adds Lee Takata, a Honolulu area resident, "It's a little frustrating when you have to choose between the end of one program and the beginning of another."

Then in 1999, two stations decided to take matters into their own hands and began the push to return to prime-time integrity.

IT WAS TIME

Bill Spellman, VP-general manager of KHON-TV, the local Fox affiliate, says his station decided to act after executives realized "we're never going to get market revenue healthy if there's a never-ending supply of avails, nothing starts on time and this is not a viewer-friendly environment."

Mr. Spellman says some advertisers supported the move because they want to be in a commercial break with fewer spots.

Mike Rosenberg, president-general manager of ABC affiliate KITV-TV, agrees. "Clutter has been a problem, with less ad retention," he says. "I thought with less inventory we could raise the cost per point since there's greater value to a break with three rather than five to seven spots."

Mr. Rosenberg says stations get seven network breaks every night, "which they've made 21/2 minutes each as opposed to either 30, 60 or 90 seconds."

Costs per thousand in Hawaii, say station executives, have remained cheap because there's so much inventory available. Says Mr. Rosenberg: "While we're the nation's 71st TV market, our CPMs are in the 90th TV market realm."

That's around $70 a household, says John L. Fink, who oversees KHNL-TV and KFVE-TV.

NOT HIGHER THAN 20%

In moving back to the regular schedule, Mr. Rosenberg says he didn't have to raise his rates "higher than 20%" to make up for lost revenues when he reduced the number of local availabilities. A 30-second spot during KITV's 10 p.m. news, the No. 2-rated newscast in the time slot, costs $800, while a 30-second spot on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" goes for $2,500.

Chuck Cohen, director of media sales with ad agency Milici Valenti Ng Pack, Honolulu, agrees with the station executives' assessment. He says he sees the clock battles in terms of "very low CPMs in a very cluttered environment, which doesn't benefit anyone. When stations all start selling effectiveness and commercial recall vs. efficiency, everybody will benefit."

Hawaii time still has its proponents, however. Mr. Fink, VP-general manager at both KHNL and KFVE, says that staying on Hawaii time gives him an edge. "By running a few minutes after the hour, we take advantage of NBC's programming to provide an audience flow in-to our 10 o'clock news."

Until the sta-tion switched from Fox to NBC in 1994, KHNL was on clock time. "There's no empirical evidence that after five spots the audience stays and after six they turn the station off," Mr. Fink says.

IN FOURTH PLACE

Although KHNL is fourth after CBS affiliate KGMB-TV in the 10 p.m. news battle, the station is hoping its new leased two-seater helicopter's aerial perspective shots will draw viewers. KFVE, which carries UPN and WB but no news of its own, reruns KHNL's late news at 11:30 p.m. KFVE's specialty is local college and high school sports.

The Raycom duopoly may be the last network holdout in the market, although Mr. Fink says there's been talk with parent Raycom about going to clock time. KGMB General Manager Lynne Mueller says her station is "on the road to dropping Hawaii time by 2001. The heart of the issue is clutter, which we've reduced by 25% this year."

Ms. Mueller says the local economy is showing signs of turning around to where TV ad revenue through the first half of the year is "up 7%."

With two stations eliminating extended ad breaks, Mike Yamada, senior VP-media director at ad agency Starr Seigle McCombs, is pleased there's less inventory in the market because "it makes the time more valuable."

Nonetheless he expresses mixed feelings about Hawaii time. "As a viewer I don't like it. But as a person buying time, it's a great way of keeping rates down."

MIXED FEELINGS

Likewise, some viewers also have mixed feelings about Hawaii time. Says Eddie Asato, who lives in a suburb of Honolulu, "You learn to live with the strange show times, especially the 10 p.m. news, which starts five or 10 minutes after the hour."

He says there's an advantage in having stations on clock and Hawaii time. "After the KHON sports segment in the 10 o'clock news is completed, I switch to either KHNL or KGMB to get their sports as well."

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