MEDFORD — When KDRV-TV hit the airwaves 25 years ago today, it ushered in one era and ended another.
Prior to the arrival of Channel 12, KOBI (Channel 5) and KTVL (Channel 10) shared network programming.
KOBI, which retains the distinction of having been affiliated with all three legacy networks, cast its lot with NBC in August 1983. KTVL became the CBS affiliate, leaving ABC to the newcomer.
"When (KOBI) chose NBC, they chose wisely at the time," says KDRV Vice President and General Manager Renard Maiuri. "In the recent past, they have probably regretted that choice, but the networks all take their turn. One popular show can carry for a number of years and bring others along. Remember the slogan 'Must See TV'? For many years, NBC was No. 1 and it was tough being ABC. Gradually, that turned around and NBC slid. It's safe to say CBS is now the most popular with the development of programs and luck."
Network affiliation — its programming, promotion, news and sports — is critical in establishing a television station's credibility and ratings. ABC was the logical choice with FOX still years from mixing it up with the big boys.
"ABC had always been a major player," Maiuri says. "FOX was a new start-up and unfamiliar to most people. Its product was also skewed to younger viewers who didn't mesh well with the dominant news station in the market."
KDRV management had the foresight to land the "Oprah Winfrey Show" when it went national in 1986.
It also pounced on "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy" in their early days and later picked up "Live with Regis and Kelly."
"Management has always been good about aggressively going after syndicated shows," says Geoffrey Riley, the station's first evening news anchor, who now is its creative services manager. "That was a definite building block."
In 1985, KDRV added its NewsWatch 12 element and within two years it was holding its own with its competitors. By the early 1990s, the station had grabbed the local news-ratings lead and has held fast ever since.
Stability has marked the Chambers Communications Corp.-owned station, which employs about 70 people.
Maiuri was the station's first news director and succeeded original General Manager Keith Lollis in 1997. There have been three lead evening news anchors — Riley, Gary Chittum and Brian Morton — during 24 years. Chief Engineer Rick Carrara's employment traces back to 1983.
Riley credits both the station's environment and the lure of the surrounding area for keeping people longer than typical small-market stations.
"It's been a good place to work and takes good care of its people," Riley says. "This was home for people like Ron Brown, but for people like me this became home."
Riley grew up in the Northeast and was at a Green Bay, Wisc., station before moving to the Rogue Valley.
Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.