I heard from a source yesterday at KCET that Bret Marcus, the public TV station's "chief content officer" and executive producer of "SoCal Connected," told his team he was leaving as part of Friday's management reorganization. I didn't confirm it, but now both the LA Times and KPCC are reporting that Marcus is indeed out. He doesn't speak in either story, but if true his exit is another sign that "SoCal Connected" could be finished. When KCET sources told me last month that "Connected" was probably history, and co-host Madeleine Brand posted the same on Facebook, Marcus was the main voice at KCET insisting that the show was just between seasons and might continue.
The station's finances are a mess even with the sale of the old Sunset Boulevard studios to Scientology. In the KPCC story by Brian Watt, longtime KCET supporter Steven Soboroff talks like the show is over.
Los Angeles businessman and civic activist Steve Soboroff calls the loss of "SoCal Connected" disappointing.
“When L.A. loses great things, it’s not good,” Soboroff said. “They’re taking away great programming and taking away jobs.”
Soboroff has supported KCET in the past but is concerned about how the station has managed its money.
KCET’s most recent audited financial statements available – for the fiscal year ending June 2012 – show a net loss of $7.4 million and only $80,000 in cash on hand. In the previous fiscal year, it posted a net gain of $15 million and finished with $1.5 million in cash on hand. The financial statement also noted KCET entered into a $5 million revolving line of credit a year ago that was set to expire at the end of last month.
Two years ago (April 2011), KCET sold its landmark studios to the Church of Scientology for $42 million. A year later, it began broadcasting from new studios with the latest technology called The Pointe in Burbank. Its financial statement indicates that its rent expenses were $2 million in its last fiscal year; in 2015, operating leases will cost KCET more than $3 million a year.
Many critics, like Soboroff, believe KCET has spent too much on office space and too little on its product and people.
“The optics of it need explanation,” Soboroff said. “They sell this asset at a big price, but on the other hand to follow that up with loss of defining programming, which leads to layoffs really requires an explanation and a plan.”
Marcus has guided the news side of KCET's programming since 2006, through the "California Connected" era and now the "SoCal Connected" seasons. He was a former NBC News and ABC News producer. In 2007 he filled the newly created position of KCET Vice President of Programming, Publicity and Promotion. In 2010 he became KCET's Senior Vice President and Chief Content Officer.
Meanwhile, the wait for a substantial move in Los Angeles by the Orange County-based PBS station for the region, PBS SoCal, is stretching into years. Sure, it lucked into the popularity of "Downton Abbey." Big whoop.
Previously on LA Observed:
KCET to go independent from PBS
Photo: KCET web staff at new high-rise headquarters in Burbank. LA Observed