Pierce: New Fox 13 studio is sleek, and news will be in HD
A new era begins Monday at KSTU Ch. 13, and viewers will see the difference immediately.
After more than 20 years in a cramped studio at the Salt Lake International Center, Fox 13 is unveiling its newly minted news set, and it's beautiful. Sleek, modern and state-of-the-art, it will take the station somewhat belatedly into the era of high definition.
KSTU bought the building next door, doubling its total space to 26,000 square feet. The impressive set complete with an upper level reached by a spiral staircase, anchor desks, an interview area, all sorts of cool monitors and the latest equipment also doubled in size to about 6,500 square feet.
The joke at Channel 13 is that after the ratings success they had in the old studio and in an astonishingly tiny temporary studio since December they ought to blow the competition away now.
"Clearly, the ratings are going to double overnight," KSTU president and general manager Tim Ermish said with a laugh.
Clearly, he was joking. The KSTU staff isn't under any illusion that people will tune in just because of the set.
But they also feel that as the only local station whose news wasn't in high definition, they were at a disadvantage.
"When we're on at the same time as three other stations and we're not in HD, and we have a temporary studio and it's cramped, I can see the average viewer who might not be connected to our product might tend to go to another station," Ermish said. "All things being equal, I'd watch somebody else.
"If you're a religious news viewer and you get invested in the brand, the quality of the news, the talent, then you look beyond that. For people who are on the fence, we definitely think this will bring them over."
Bob Evans, the station's lead anchorman for the past 17 years, is excited about the changes. But he put it in perspective.
"It doesn't really matter what the outside or the inside of a building looks like if you're working with people you really care for," he said, "and at an operation you really have pride in.
"We're delighted that we have this, but this isn't what makes Fox 13 Fox 13. People do that."
KSTU is adding another half-hour of news on Monday a 4:30-5 a.m. show that will bring Fox 13 to a total of eight hours of local programming a day.
That's more than any other Salt Lake station.
"And we have personality," Ermish said. "Kind of a flavor. We don't want to be your grandma's news station."
Not everyone has acquired a taste for Fox 13's news, but the station is a market leader in demographics. And the new studio is amazing.
It is also, as Ermish readily admitted, "window dressing."
"It will help, but we still have to do our jobs," he said.
Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.