Throw out any preconceptions you might have that the folks at North Texas Public Broadcasting (better known as KERA) rake in piles of government money to produce shows that please only a half-dozen of their pointy-headed liberal friends.
Business has been booming for 90.1 FM and Channel 13 during the past four years, with money from memberships up. The National Public Radio—and PBS—affiliate stations count on contributions from viewers and listeners for more than half of their annual $15 million–16 million in combined revenue. (Government funding brings in about 10 percent.) The nonprofit corporation, with annual expenses of about $15.3 million, has run operating surpluses during each of the four years since Mary Anne Alhadeff became its president and CEO.
While a number of other public broadcasting companies in major markets have been forced into budget cuts and layoffs, KERA had the financial wherewithal this year to spend $18 million to buy a second radio station. KKXT (91.7 FM)—which will call itself simply KXT—starts broadcasting music 24 hours a day on Nov. 9. Shared staff and equipment with KERA will allow KXT to operate its inaugural year on a budget of about $600,000.
North Texas Public Broadcasting was able to finance the deal through a consortium of nonprofit-focused lenders, says chief financial officer and executive vice president Jason Daisey, thanks to having more than $100 million in assets and no debt on its books.
Two major factors have contributed to KERA’s privileged position. First, Dallas-Fort Worth, even in a slow economy, continues to grow in population. And North Texas is alone among the 10 largest media markets in having just one NPR station. That means less competition for those inclined to support public broadcasting.
Alhadeff hopes to increase KXT’s audience to more than 150,000 listeners a week within 18 months (compared to 90.1’s 400,000). She believes the new station’s adult-album-alternative music format will attract an audience with a median age in the early 40s, about 10 years younger than 90.1’s.
“By really tailoring the playlist, you can target an audience that both enjoys the music and also has some disposable income to send to us,” Alhadeff says.