Azar is owner of Iberia Communications LLC, operator of KACB Channel 50, an unbuilt station licensed in New Iberia. The tower, however, will be constructed north of Lafayette. As recent as Feb. 4, the ophthalmologist and real estate investor was still filing basic FCC forms concerning digital TV requirements.
Azar did not return phone calls seeking comment.
The doctor has long been associated with local media owners Tom Galloway and Charles Chatelain. In January of this year, Galloway completed the purchase of local TV stations KADN and KLAF from Chatelain for $13.25 million and $3.4 million, respectively. KADN is a Fox affiliate, and KLAF is a low power UPN station; a dominant media owner in the state, Galloway had been operating them for years through a local marketing agreement.
Just weeks before the sale was finalized, two key members of ABC affiliate KATC's sales force, Tom Poehler and Sean Trcalek, resigned on the same day to join Galloway's company, Comcorp ' jumpstarting more speculation that the group may be preparing for an expansion.
The rest of the story is anybody's guess.
Jim Serra, general manager of NBC affiliate KPLC in Lake Charles, says he's heard for years that local interests would like to start an NBC station for the Lafayette market. "Sometimes where there's smoke, there's fire," says Serra, but he doesn't see NBC partnering with any more local entities. "They [NBC] consider Lafayette to be a served market."
Serra's station has a partnership with Cox Communications to be carried exclusively on the cable company's system in Lafayette; the two companies split profits from the sale of local advertising airtime on what they promote as "Acadiana 7 KPLC." Another area NBC affiliate is KALB in Alexandria, which covers some of the market just north of Lafayette; and WVLA in Baton Rouge, which is owned by Galloway's son, Sheldon, serves the area east of Lafayette.
"It would be unlikely that the network would approve an affiliate agreement that would encroach on the territory of existing affiliates," says Serra, who is prepared to fight such a move. "It would face the wrath of three existing affiliate owners," he says.
New York-based John Damiano, executive vice president for affiliate relations at NBC, declined to comment.
Azar and the local group would face another major caveat from NBC, due to their lack of a local news product. Galloway and his son own more than 30 television stations, most in Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi, and Chatelain owns a UPN station in Longview, Texas. The Galloways don't like to do local news broadcasts, and it's unlikely NBC would entertain a new relationship with anyone not offering that programming, according to local TV executives.
"I would be very surprised," says KATC General Manager Nannette Frye. "That would be atypical, but crazier things have happened."
The Galloways have been able to stave off pressure from networks that wanted their affiliates to offer news, an extremely costly product. The Galloways' Fox affiliates, KADN in Lafayette and WGMB in Baton Rouge, have no news broadcasts. Neither does their NBC station, WVLA, in the capital city. (They do have at least one Texas affiliate that offers news.)
Lake Charles CPA Lester Langley, who owns that city's Fox affiliate, KVHP, introduced news programming more than four years ago but shuttered the newscasts last year. Langley says it cost $500,000 to $750,000 to initially fund the programs ' costs include talent, engineering and camera staffs and investment in equipment and technology ' and more than $1 million a year to sustain them. "We weren't even breaking even," he says.
Langley says Fox had encouraged him to offer news content and did provide assistance to get it started. He says the network has since backed away from requiring local newscasts in its contract renewals, mainly as a result of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Langley suggests viewing trends shifted away from local news stations and more toward network news after the tragedy. "As we looked at the numbers, we saw more and more viewers going to the Fox News Channel."
Outside of securing a major network, Azar's next likely option is Warner Bros.' fast-growing The WB network, home to shows like Gilmore Girls and Everwood. Paul Eason runs Lafayette's KLWB as an "affiliate partner," though he doesn't own the station. Two years ago he took over operations when the Galloway group's contract expired. (The Galloways did not have a sales effort promoting KLWB.) "We've done a lot with it," says Eason. "We've grown immensely," he notes, acknowledging that the recent success of the cablecast WB station may make it attractive to potential buyers.
Eason says minor networks like PAX TV or UPN (bringing the local Galloway UPN to a full power signal) would be less appealing to Azar and his new venture. "I don't see the return on their investment for a long time with the smaller networks."
KATC's Frye says it's likely the group will determine what it's going to offer before beginning construction of the tower, a costly undertaking. Later this year, KATC plans to begin construction of its $5 million digital tower near Church Point. The station will keep its existing analog tower in Kaplan; TV10 has already upgraded its existing tower, also near Church Point, to digital.
Frye is doubtful that a new station will be under way soon. "You've got to have a tower, and it takes a while to build one. I would hear through the industry that a tower crew's been hired," she says.
"Clearly, a lot of rumors are swirling," says Eason. "I hear new ones every day."
FDA to regulate e-cigarettes, Jodie Foster gets married, Vermont to require labels on genetically-modified food, and more national and international news for today, April 24, 2014:
A push to expand Louisiana's Medicaid program as allowed under the federal health care has been overwhelmingly rejected by the Senate health committee.
Louisiana welfare recipients would be prohibited in state law from spending the federal assistance at lingerie shops, tattoo parlors, nail salons and jewelry stores, under a bill that received the support Wednesday of a House committee.
Senators will consider whether to prohibit private businesses in Louisiana from paying unequal wages to employees of different genders for the same job.
Rep. Joel Robideaux has delayed bill hearings and said unless a compromise can be reached, he won't bring up the legislation this session.
Once again, Lafayette Parish School Board President Hunter Beasley is focused on an issue that has nothing to do with the educational well-being of our public school children.
After exhausting his appeals all the way to the state Supreme Court, the owner of the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete has no legal remedy left save one: do an end run around the high court via a bill that would grandfather his “right” to keep a 550-pound tiger enclosed in a pin at his roadside business.
Louisiana poet Darrell Bourque has won the 2014 Louisiana Writer Award, given annually to recognize outstanding contributions to Louisiana's literary and intellectual life.
Drivers would have to secure dogs riding in truck beds while on interstate highways, if the Senate agrees to a bill backed by the House.
An effort to prohibit employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity was shelved Tuesday for the legislative session.
Louisiana won't lessen its penalties for marijuana possession, keeping laws on the books that allow people to be jailed up to 20 years for repeat offenses of having the drug in hand.
“This is one of the oldest divides that exists, and that divide is about the haves and the have-nots.”
It took a few weeks for the pitfalls to emerge in the governor’s $25 billion budget, but the time of judgment has finally arrived.
With pressure continuing to build for him to resign, Congressman Vance McAllister announced plans recently to remain secluded during the Easter break, but the Swartz Republican has said he’ll be back on the Hill casting votes and attending committee meetings when the congressional recess ends April 28.
A bid to limit the use of unmanned aircraft on private property in Louisiana stalled Monday in the Louisiana Senate.
A Shreveport lawmaker said Monday he's scrapping his proposal to name the Bible as Louisiana's official state book.
Attorney hopes fellow lawyers will join him in urging the D.A. to step aside and allow a competent, ethical challenger to take over the scandal-ridden office.
An official with the Louisiana Department of Education was arrested on a range of charges Friday after allegedly breaking into a home and brandishing a knife.
State Rep. Stuart Bishop says he’s concerned with the quality of Capitol Lake, but when it comes to Louisiana’s coastline, this Lafayette Republican doesn't seem to give a damn.
Democrats sweating this year's elections may be hoping that the Obama administration's latest delay to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline takes a politically fraught issue off the table for the midterms.
Louisiana lawmakers are entering the second half of their three-month regular legislative session, which must end by June 2. Where some of the major issues stand:
Local and state agents Thursday night raided The Keg, the popular college bar located in the area known as The Strip, leading to the (at least) temporary closure of the venue.
Time and time again, the Lafayette Parish School Board shows an overwhelming tendency toward idiocy, but Wednesday night’s contentious discussion over Northside High School’s teen mother program tops the list of dumb discussions.
“The accomplishment of this goal within the next ten years is not only critical for the region to effectively compete with other regions for residents and businesses, but also to provide an amenity for everyone in Acadiana to enjoy.”
Education Superintendent John White says a continued push to try to keep Louisiana from using tests associated with the Common Core education standards are creating "a state of chaos" for public school teachers.