by Kevin Harris, Station Manager and Vice President of WETA Television
At exactly 11:56:46 p.m. on Friday, June 1, 2012, the America’s Test Kitchen credits will end and WETA How-To (Create) will go to black for the first time since it premiered in June 2006. Good-Bye WETA How-To (Create).
At exactly 11:56:47 p.m. on Friday, June 1, 2012, WETA will run a WETA UK image promotional spot and a legal WETA UK identification.
At exactly 12:00:00 a.m. on June 2, 2012, The WETA UK Premiere Weekend begins with the pilot episode of Primeval. Hello WETA UK!
OK. I did it. I’m the one that cancelled WETA How-To (Create). If you want to point a finger at someone for axing your beloved How-To channel in favor of WETA UK-the British channel- it should be pointed in my direction. I understand your disappointment. I get your anger. After six years of having cooking demonstrations and do-it-yourself crafts at your fingertips around the clock, you’ll miss the 24/7 channel. I will miss it too.
For the record, I didn’t wake up one morning and yell,“Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, and America’s Test Kitchen MUST GO!” The truth is, when asked to write a white paper on the future of the WETA local multi-cast channels (WETA TV26, WETA HD, WETA Kids, and WETA How-To (Create)), I set out to defend our choice of program services as the only possible non-commercial alternatives in a very crowded television universe. Kids and How-To programming are a part of our DNA. Sesame Street and French Chef Julia Child are a huge part of our local brand. I honestly had no plans to shake up our channel line-up.
A funny thing happened on our way to the status quo. While researching the ratings of our digital channels for the white paper assignment, our director of programming Bryant Wilson and I discovered a number of surprising facts:
1. WETA How-To (Create) and WETA Kids combined have larger audiences in the Washington DC market than BBC America. People are watching our local digital channels.
2. There isn’t a show on BBC America that comes close to matching the large audiences that regularly watch British programs on WETA TV26. Doc Martin, Keeping Up Appearances, Sherlock Holmes, and Masterpiece literally dwarf all of the programs on BBC America.
3. We couldn’t ignore the fact that BBC America was under serving the public television audience in the Washington DC market. There was an opportunity for a public television British broadcast channel in the DC area. One of our WETA digital channels should play this role.
4. The white paper assignment had to change. It could no longer be a defense for business as usual. The paper became a business plan for WETA UK, America’s first all British broadcast channel.
So why did WETA How-To (Create) need to go? We had no choice. The potential of a successful WETA UK channel couldn’t be passed up. WETA has limited bandwidth to broadcast television. The main channel, WETA TV26 and its companion, WETA HD had to stay. The two channels are PBS in the Washington DC area. Our commitment to provide non-commercial, educational, and diverse kids programming to every child in the Washington area for free is as strong today as it has ever been. 50 years of educating local WETA Kids can never be replaced with entertainment programming. It is a major part of who we are as a local organization. That left us with WETA How-To (Create), our entertainment channel. Change had to happen. The WETA How-To (Create) channel was the obvious choice. Good bye, Create. Hello, WETA UK.
How-To programming remains an important part of WETA Television. WETA TV26 currently broadcasts the best cooking and how-to shows on Saturdays. Starting Saturday, June 2nd we’re expanding the how-to block. It will run from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. A weekly 12-hour block of programming can never replace a full-time channel dedicated to everything how-to. I understand that. It can however showcase the best public television DIY programming available. I hope you’ll enjoy the new WETA TV26 Saturday line-up of how-to programs. Yes. I know you’re going to miss WETA How-To (Create), but give WETA UK a try. I think you’ll like it. Here’s the WETA TV26 Saturday line-up beginning June 2, 2012: