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Local Video Channels Provide Competition To MTV, Pop Radio

April 4, 1986

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. (AP) _ For more than a year, two veteran disc jockeys have been televising a hybrid of MTV and top-40 radio that could be the new competitor to both the cable music video giant and local radio stations.

WVJV-TV, better known as V-66, has been broadcasting a 24-hour blend of music videos, local news, weather and music features - a formula being followed by nearly a dozen other stations around the nation.

″We took a lot of the ingredients of an FM station and incorporated them into our format,″ said Arnie Ginsburg, one of the founders and owners of V-66 and a Boston radio fixture since the 1950s.

″We felt that video music on a local level, with local input, with VJs (video disc jockeys) talking about Boston, doing the weather, news, playing local groups - that we’d be the equivalent of a radio station on television.″

Many of the local all-music or mostly video stations have a low-power license that limits their range. Many operate on shoestring budgets. But V-66, a full-power, over-the-air station that is also hooked up to many of the region’s cable networks, is backed by about $22 million in financing, including $10.5 million raised through the sale of limited partnerships.

V-66 VJs wear new wave clothing picked out by a fashion consultant. Three sets are used to give the show a different look at different times of the day.

Slick, electronically produced graphics complement the music, while contests are used to lure viewers, much like radio stations use giveaways to hook listeners.

In another radio parallel, V-66 takes requests and records them on a computer system that gives the station’s programmers market data on what videos are popular among its target audience, the 18-to 24-year-old age group.

Ginsburg said V-66 has several advantages over MTV, which competes with V- 66 on the Boston-area and Providence, R.I., cable systems.

″We can be local, we can respond to local taste, we can play local groups, we can give information the Boston market cares about,″ he said. In addition, V-66 is free to anyone with a television set.

MTV downplays upstart competitors like V-66.

″We’re not worried,″ said MTV spokesman Barry Kluger. ″They’re local stations. They can fill a local need that MTV cannot. MTV is programmed as a national service. There are two different needs.″

Kluger said MTV has agreements with record companies to provide it with new videos exclusively for a certain period before they are released to other stations. This provides viewers in the 27 million households that get MTV with a freshness he said is lacking on the local video stations.

One local video station, TV5 in Houston, has sued MTV over its exclusivity agreements on videos.

V-66 is on track according to its business plan, which projected a combined loss of $5 million its first two years, Ginsburg said.

V-66 competes in Boston’s crowded television market with four other independent stations on the UHF dial, three network affiliates and two public broadcasting stations.

Jon Anderson, director of marketing and advertising for Boston hit music radio station WHTT, said V-66 is already a competitor for ads.

″I do think I see significant movement in record advertising dollars to that station,″ he said. ″The visual things that record companies are doing lend themselves to that type of advertising.″

But Anderson said V-66 was not direct competition for his station’s primarily teen-age audience because television requires both listening and looking. ″It requires the two attentions,″ he said. ″Radio allows them to do different things.″

Peter Mandell, promotion manager for WNEU-TV in Atlanta, wasn’t optimistic about V-66′s future. Faced with a lack of advertising, his station was forced to cut back from mostly video programming to a format that mixes about seven hours of videos a day with local sports and reruns.

″It didn’t sell,″ Mandell said.

But Carolyn Robinson, general manager of mostly video TV30 in Lawrence, Kan., was more optimistic about video stations, particularly low-power ones.

″The key is to keep overhead low, creativity high,″ she said. ″We have the best of radio and television. When these stations are run right, I don’t think there is any competition.″

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