PRYOR, OK —
There was a smaller than average turnout to hear about the larger-than-expected Rogers State University Television department at the Pryor Chamber of Commerce Luncheon Wednesday.
Royal Aills, RSU TV General Manager, was welcomed as the guest speaker.
According to Aills, RSU TV’s three goals are to ducate, enlighten and entertain.
Aills, who describes himself as a tried and true Okie, worked at OETA, Tulsa News Channel 2 and a Tulsa-based Christian channel before coming to work at RSU in February.
During his tenure at OETA, Aills tripled the station's ratings and made the local station one of the most watched PBS affiliates the nation, according to his biography information on the RSU website.
He said he is constantly amazed at the 200,000-300,000 people watching RSU-TV at any given time. The station, located at the university's Claremore campus, is Oklahoma's only full-powered television station operated by a public university. The station is carried by 76 different cable and satellite providers, Aills said.
“When I was hired, the number one most-watched program was Bill Gaither Gospel,” said Aills, who was surprised to see that British television programs came in at number two.
Sit and Stretch, a morning exercise program, was the third most watched.
“When I started, I thought there's no way that is popular. I was going to remove it from the lineup but I quickly found out that if I did I was going to be held hostage,” Aills joked.
The station has been rebranded a little under Aills’ direction, sporting a new logo with Hillcat colors, blue and red.
While the station has remained separate from the university in regard to policy and programming, Aills is ready to bring it back under the same umbrella.
“I want to work together with the university as an outlet for the university. I want to focus on education and help RSU with branding and recruitment,” said Aills.
Aills said he often hears speculation that television is dead, but his ratings and growth say otherwise.
He said RSU-TV is viewed in 1.3 million homes, reflecting a seven percent increase since 2010. He said the average american spends more than 34 hours a week watching television, and an additional six hours watching recorded shows. Individuals age 64 and older, the station's largest demographic, spends roughly 48 hours a week watching TV.
Aills described the station’s line-up of shows, saying it is about giving the viewers the programming they want.
“We don't put anything on our station like Honey Boo Boo, it's not gonna happen. And you've heard of Naked and Afraid on the Discovery Channel? I won't even let my kids watch it, we have nothing like that,” said Aills.
Building on the mantra of educate, enlighten and entertain, the station has programming in everything from news to instructional programs to cooking shows.
“We've got Simply Ming, an Asian cooking program and America's Test Kitchen,” said Aills, who pointed out that quilting shows have seen a huge spike in viewership.
For music fans, the lineup includes Celtic Thunder and Backstage Pass. Due to increasing popularity, British shows like New Tricks and Sherlock Homes are featured.
“I'm a news guy, I believe in getting news from multiple sources and we provide that. Asia This Week is like the CNN of China,” Aills said, pointing out Rick Steve's Europe and The Journal.
“We provide all the news and information you would want to balance out what you're seeing from American based news outlets.”
Now entering its third season is the game show I Want Answers, sponsored partially by Grand River Dam Authority, in which student academic teams compete for scholarship money.
The list of awards and accolades won by the station is extensive and includes an Emmy.
“We are highly award-winning but most people don't know that becase we're student run,” said Aills. “We have a high placement rate with news channels two, six and eight.”
The equipment used at the station, Aills said, is not different than the equipment used in major television news stations, giving students every advantage possible.
“One graduate from our station was hired as the videographer for the king of Saudi Arabia,” said Aills.
The station is run primarily by students, but is paid for primarily through federal funding, 58 percent of the total. The station receives 28 percent of its funding from the university.
Having settled into his general manager position, Aills has made the goal to increase under writing funding from 13 percent to 28 percent. He is also looking forward to Grove and Grand Lake programming, working with Chambers of Commerce and tourism groups. He is working with the university to put a studio on the Bartlesville campus.
More information including a programming schedule is available on the station's website, www.rsupublictv.org