Doo-wop sounds sweet for WQED pledge drives
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We Pittsburghers sure do love to watch doo-wop programs on television.
To anyone growing up here, this is hardly news. What is notable, however, is just how much Pittsburghers love those concert shows. And trains -- we love trains.
"Programs about trains win Emmys and raise dollars," said Deborah Acklin, president and CEO of WQED Multimedia, discussing the fine art of pledge drive programming after Tuesday's quarterly board meeting in Oakland.
"Any time I've seen any WQED programming in a[n awards] category where there is another one about trains, trains always won."
Viewers might agree. Sunday, WQED ran a marathon of "Downton Abbey," Season 1. As a pledge show, it didn't draw well.
"Downton Abbey" performed at about half of what we'd like to see," Ms. Acklin said.
The next night, the station went with "Trains Around North America." Big hit.
"Every few years, there is a big push where people say 'Why don't we just pledge the things people like to watch [such as "Downton Abbey"], because they'll support them?" she said.
Yet in some markets, such as Pittsburgh, shows prompting viewers to open their checkbooks involve self-help, local programming such as the Rick Sebak specials, and those concerts, from doo-wop to Celtic Thunder.
"Rick always does well, Chris Fennimore programs always do well," Ms. Acklin said. "When we start off a drive with a new Chris Fennimore show, we have a good weekend, it gives a lift.
"We don't look for the weeknights to be strong performers, we look to the weekends."
The station had 73 pledge days last year.
On the local programming front, it is readying "Pittsburgh From the Air II," which showcases high-definition films that are exactly that: Western Pennsylvania shot from a special helicopter.
A brief snippet shown Tuesday swooped down over fall foliage, football games and the Pittsburgh Marathon. It will premiere Oct. 4. The original "Pittsburgh From the Air" has performed well in broadcast as well as in DVD/Blu-ray sales.
The board also recognized Mr. Sebak, a Bethel Park native now living in Regent Square, for 25 years and almost three dozen documentary films.
He was recognized May 9 with a bill in the Pennsylvania State House, recognizing his many efforts to chronicle life's daily joys.
A second helping of his "Breakfast" show -- referred to as "Revenge of the Omelets" -- promises a look at America's obsession with bacon and eggs, "from North Carolina to Hawaii."
"I still love what I do," Mr. Sebak said. "I still love all aspects of the process. It's a good gig -- 25 more!"
First Published June 13, 2012 12:00 am