Off a dusty, dirt trail near McHard Road, a white warehouse surrounded by oil wells, jackrabbits and mesquite now serves as headquarters for what’s arguably the future of television in Fort Bend County.
Sweeping vistas outside the building that look more like the set of “Lonesome Dove” are populated by the occasional coyote. Inside, though, is the broadcasting focal point of the county’s only independent TV station. Unlike the cantina in Larry McMurtry’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, there is a telephone – 832-547-2519.
Its call letters are KBPX -TV, but the staff simply calls it NuDu TV, short for the New DuMont Television Network. Ever since February 2017, it has broadcast live on channel 46.3, serving as a local alternative for the growing number of viewers abandoning expensive cable television.
Once inside, the studio is not so different from the studios on the University of Houston campus or Channel 13 where owner Mark Kennedy worked earlier in his career. Today he is the proud owner of NuDu, offering high school and college sports; classic shows and movies; a western series hosted by comedian Sam Griesebaum called “Ten Gallon Movies with Griesebaum” plus original programming from the seventh largest TV market in the United States.
“The difference is that I have a closer bond to my audience,” said Kennedy, a tall, introspective man with infinite patience. “I can ask questions on what the viewers like and dislike. I listen to their complaints and try to respond to each one. The audience is smart and knows what they like. I am not one to argue with that.”
The no-fuss, no frills office is replete with state-of-the-art transmitters, receivers and recording rigs.
“When the bigger stations started out, it was all analog and that takes more equipment,” recalled Kennedy. “Broadcast technology has evolved and the equipment needs as well as the size of the equipment is much more minimal. Folks can watch us with an antennae on Channel 46.3, on the NuDu Remote apps for iPhone and Android, and streaming services Google Chromecast, Apple TV, Roku TV, Amazon Fire, Facebook Live and NuDu.TV.”
Evan Gray, an intern from the University of Houston’s Valenti School of Communications, has already become proficient in sports production and says he found the perfect fit for his future.
“I was attracted to the project because we don’t have to answer to corporate and we can offer affordable advertising,” said Travis Brocato, vice president and chief engineer. “It’s something the cord-cutters can have some local pride in. I feel we offer great local content that you’re just not going to be able to find on the big networks.”
“Tommy’s Garage,” one of NuDu’s most popular shows, had 135,000 downloads recently. The patriotic comedy show features Tommy Adkins, who was formerly with FOX, Robert “Rosie” Rosenkranz, John Watts, Mike Rao, Matt Guidry and Gavin Babineaux, whose mom Phoebe Babineaux teaches school at Walker Station Elementary in Fort Bend ISD.
“I think much of it relates to a generational shift,” said Kennedy. “The younger generation is less tethered to stationary sources like landline phones, computers, TVs, cars and houses. Mobility and choice combined with economic and environmental value systems are impacted.”
“This community model will be the future of television – we’re able to bring local sports programming that you can’t find anywhere else,” said Jeff McShan, a graduate of Sam Houston State University, who also works at Precinct 5 as a media spokesperson and has worked also as the law enforcement liaison for Crime Stoppers of Houston, an organization that helps keep our community safe.
“We recently shot the Westbury Christian basketball – they are a very good team,” said McShan. “You are not going to get that on FoxSports or ATT SportsNet. The games are aired over and over therefore families can go home and watch the games again. We air a variety of rodeos, including the Humble Rodeo and charity boxing matches, like a Battle for the Badges in Galveston where the firemen took on the police officers for charity. That event was packed and it was really fun. Those are not broadcast anywhere else. I enjoy doing the play by play for an audience for whom this is very meaningful.”
“I think we have a good business model and if we can get into more of the high schools and colleges and do play by play for basketball that wouldn’t be on the big networks,” said McShan. “It gives me an opportunity to engage in something that is meaningful.”
They are in negotiations with the University of Houston and Rice University to air college basketball, volleyball and baseball beginning this fall. Last year, they broadcast sports for Houston Baptist University. They are speaking to the Sugar Land Skeeters about broadcasting in 2019.