Printed on: July 16, 1998

Fox makes it to rooftops; WB preview on its way

Paul Menser
Post Register

    Whether it's been Bart Simpson saying "Don't have a cow, man," or Ally McBeal moaning "Poor, pitiful me," the only people in eastern Idaho who've been able to tune in up until now have been cable subscribers.

That changes tonight, as eastern Idaho's own Fox Network affiliate, KFXP, begins broadcasting from Pocatello. Starting at 7, viewers who rely on their rooftop antennas for their television signals will be able to get Fox, at Channel 31 on the dial.

It is one of two big developments on the regional television scene.

This weekend, many eastern Idaho cable subscribers also will have their first chance to view hit programs from the WB Network- "Dawson's Creek," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Seventh Heaven." KIFI TV-Idaho 8 will be previewing the Warner Brothers Network shows in preparation for a full network rollout on a separate cable position this fall.

Fox has been around since the mid-1980s challenging television's "Big Three" - CBS, ABC and NBC. In eastern Idaho, it has come to homes in fits and starts. KIDK TV-3, the local CBS affiliate, made a deal in 1993, in order to broadcast NFL games, which Fox was to begin broadcasting. But the network's hit prime-time shows, like "The Simpsons," "Beverly Hills 90210" and "The X Files," aired at odd hours.

For the last few years, Fox programming has aired at regular hours in TCI Cablevision subscribers' homes. While over-the-air viewers will begin tuning in on Channel 31, a UHF frequency, cable customers will still see Fox on Channel 9, which has been the home of FoxNet.

The station is broadcasting from Pocatello, leasing space in the basement of the building that is home to KPVI Channel 6. It's signal will be coming from the same hilltop antenna that serves Channel 6.

The station will be at a disadvantage in terms of translators. Channels 3, 6 and 8 have translators that allow their signals to reach more remote locations, such as Driggs, Challis, Dubois and Salmon. Until it obtains Federal Communications Commission licenses for translators, Fox 31's signal will stop just short of Arco to the west and Rexburg to the south.

In terms of programming, the prime time lineup will be virtually identical to what cable viewers have been getting on Channel 9. During the day, however, the offerings will be very different. "I'm guessing there will be a 50 percent change overall," said the station's owner Jerry Proctor of Livingston, Texas.

The new station will have no local news offering before 2000, but Proctor said they have made a commitment to Fox to eventually develop something. "Right now, we need to get all the kinks out and present a professional product. Doing news is a formidable challenge," he said.

KIFI-Idaho 8's deal with WB came after the network approached local affiliates and asked for partnership proposals. The network prefers to have broadcast stations carry its programming, but recognizes there aren't enough stations in some markets, including Idaho Falls-Pocatello, said spokeswoman Natalie Anderson.

The station will have the call letters KWIB, and is scheduled to launch Sept. 21. It is tentatively set to go on the cable band as Channel 11, said Rickie Orchin Brady, KIFI-Idaho 8 general manager.

Although all the programming will come from the network, there will be local commercials. On a cable network like MTV or Lifetime, there's no opportunity for local advertisers.

"It's not a national cable channel. It has a local feel that local viewers prefer," Anderson said. "Essentially, it's a new local business."

The WB, a division of Warner Brothers, is the nation's fifth largest network. Previews on Idaho 8 will start Saturday at 5 p.m., with "Dawson's Creek" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" being broadcast Saturday at midnight; and then "Seventh Heaven" will be shown Sunday from 5 to 6 p.m.

The network is targeted at younger viewers. "It will serve a segment of our audience that currently isn't being serviced," Brady said.

Proctor hailed KIFI-Idaho 8's deal with the WB as a smart move. "They have the personnel and commitment to become the next Fox," he said.

Business and agriculture reporter Paul Menser can be reached at 522-1800, ext. 3252, or via e-mail at pmenser@idahonews.com

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