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Scooby-doo, where are you? KATV drops cartoons for information on Saturday mornings, but Sundays remain an information wasteland in the Little Rock market.

It's Saturday morning, and things just aren't the same.

Scooby-Doo has been replaced by John Barnes.

The Smurfs have given way to "Home Showcase."

And news has done in Winnie-the-Pooh.

What has happened to Saturday morning television?

Part of it is now devoted to adults on Little Rock station KATV-TV, Channel 7.

And it might happen soon on Little Rock's KARK-TV, Channel 4.

"We were all programming to the same group of children," says Dale Nicholson, KATV's president and general manager. "It never made sense to me."

Channel 7, an ABC affiliate, now features adult-oriented shows until 9:30 a.m. each Saturday.

When NBC stops feeding cartoons to its affiliates in August, KARK will switch to a Saturday version of the "Today" show and feature youth-oriented programs rather than animated cartoons later in the morning.

KTHV-TV, Channel 11, will be the only network affiliate in Little Rock to air cartoons for most of the morning. The only adult show between 6 a.m. and noon on Saturdays at KTHV is the "U.S. Farm Report."

The move toward information on Saturdays is part of a national trend. KATV is attempting to lead that movement in central Arkansas.

Nicholson used KCRA-TV, Channel 3, in Sacramento, Calif., as his inspiration. That station's move to information programming has been a ratings success.

"That confirmed what I always thought was probably true," Nicholson says. "If adults could find something useful to them on Saturday morning, they would watch."

Already, a Chicago television station has studied Nicholson's Saturday morning lineup.

But Are They Watching?

How many business people, after a long week of work, want to wake up early on Saturday morning to get business news?

So far, the ratings aren't showing there are many.

But Nicholson tells another story. According to Nicholson, it's all about finding a niche.

KATV's Saturday lineup begins with the continuation of an overnight network news feed. "Headline News" from the Cable News Network airs at 5:30 a.m. Nicholson says that appeals to the 40 percent of viewers who do not have cable.

"It's Your Business," which airs at 6 a.m., is a syndicated public affairs program produced by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce at Washington. If "It's Your Business" doesn't inform you, there's the "Wall Street Journal Report" at 6:30 a.m. That is followed at 7 a.m. by a Saturday version of the local newscast "Daybreak." The one-hour program airs an hour earlier at 6 a.m. on weekdays prior to ABC's taped feed of "Good Morning America."

"The Channel 7 Business Report With John Barnes," which was called "The Arkansas Investor" before a publication of the same name complained, airs at 8 a.m. each Saturday. Barnes is an investment broker who is well known in financial circles, although his show has not done well in the overall ratings.

"We may work to change it," Nicholson says.

And, then again, he may just leave it alone.

"The show plays to an audience we reach at no other time in the work-week," says Nicholson, who describes it as the program for chief executive officers and other corporate managers.

That may translate into small overall numbers, but it represents an important niche for certain advertisers.

"This show is not for mass consumption," Barnes admits.

Another demographically targeted show, the syndicated "Working Woman," follows at 8:30 a.m.

Rounding out the information lineup is "Home Showcase," which is sponsored by the Little Rock real estate firm McKay & Co. The show began Jan. 4.

"The concept of letting television audiences preview homes has proved an instant success in major markets nationwide," says McKay's president and owner, Randy Alexander.

In a way, things have come full circle at Channel 7.

Nicholson's first job at KATV was in the sales department. He had to market a similar show called "House Hunting," which he says was successful.

"The beauty of it is they need never leave the comfort of their living rooms to see some of the finest residences our market has to offer," Alexander says.

It's too early to tell if viewers will be as excited as Alexander. But he says the feedback has been positive thus far.

The Competition

"The video marketplace has changed so dramatically, we have to be different," Nicholson says.

He points to noon weekday shows as another area in which programming is too similar from station to station.

There are no weekend changes planned at KTHV. That's not to say Channel 11 is afraid to try something new. More than a decade ago, the station took a dramatic turn on Sunday morning by offering a movie rather than the routine religious fare.

Channel 11 also runs the CBS News program "Face The Nation." But it has come under intense criticism from upscale viewers for refusing to show the highly acclaimed CBS program "Sunday Morning" with Charles Kuralt, which airs from 8 a.m. until 9:30 a.m.

At KARK, General Sales Manager Bob Denman says, "We can't clear all the shows that we would like to" due to the demand from religious organizations.

In simpler terms, there's more money to be made in the Bible Belt from preachers than from news and public affairs. Let those searching for highbrow programming suffer, the Little Rock stations seem to be saying.

KARK, for instance, doesn't carry the Sunday version of "Today," which also airs from 8 a.m. until 9:30 a.m. KARK only carries "Meet The Press" if Gov. Bill Clinton or some other Arkansan is a guest.

KATV does not offer the award-winning "This Week With David Brinkley" in its regular 9:30 a.m. slot due to religious programming. It usually is shown at 12:30 p.m.

For now, Nicholson is not planning additional changes on either Saturday or Sunday mornings. His goal is to "nurse, nurture and promote" what he has.

"I think we'll stop where we are and work on what we've got," Nicholson says.
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Author:Rengers, Carrie
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Jan 27, 1992
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