Broadcasting to over 100,000 viewers in Cupertino, Los Altos and Mountain View, plus webcasting to all, the nonprofit KMVT 15 manages to make ends meet, remarkably so for a community television station in the sluggish economy. But KMVT wasn't what it is today when executive director Brian Szabo came on board in June 2005.
Szabo, a Palo Alto resident who recently announced his retirement, created new sources of revenue for KMVT, located at 1400 Terra Bella Ave. in Mountain View, by launching unprecedented services in the past six years.
The best known of the services is a youth program that holds week-long video camps for middle schoolers to learn how to produce TV programs during their winter, spring and summer breaks.
"By Friday of the week the students will complete a video production, and we will air it," said Szabo. "They get really excited about seeing their own production on TV."
As for why the program targets middle schoolers only, Szabo explained that 6th through 8th graders are mature enough to learn video technology, but their schools generally don't offer video production classes as some high schools do, so KMVT steps up to fill their need.
Szabo said KMVT charges $325 per student for the video camps, and that regularly brings a considerable amount of income to the station.
According to Szabo, 65 percent of KMVT's budget comes from the three cities it serves, and the station has to earn the other 35 percent.
Besides the youth video camps, Szabo also launched KMVT Productions, a professional video production unit, to generate income for KMVT by producing promotional videos from script to screen for nonprofit and for-profit organizations alike.
The promotional videos cannot air on the KMVT channel, which is for the use of the community only, but they bring the KMVT crew awards and recognition.
Clients of KMVT Productions include large corporations like Johnson & Johnson and a few school districts, according to Szabo.
Another innovative service initiated by Szabo is the KMVT YouTube Channel. As a TV station, KMVT gets an exemption from YouTube's length limitation, and can run its complete programs on YouTube.
It was no coincidence that Szabo made KMVT more than a community TV station. The combination of his education, experiences and expertise helped him turn things around at KMVT.
Born in Budapest, Hugary, Szabo first came to the U.S. at age 11 as a child of a refugee family. He lived in Pasadena, California until high school graduation, and then went to Stanford University.
In 1968, Szabo received a Bachelor's degree in Psychology, and married his high school sweetheart Maggie, who also graduated from Stanford.
Szabo pursued graduate studies at UCLA for a Master's degree in motion picture production, which led him to the film industry. He worked in films for the next decade, but decided to make a career switch after the birth of his first son.
To give his family more stable financial support, Szabo studied computer mathematics at San Jose State University, and that turned him into a software engineer in 1981.
Szabo worked his way up to technical management, and once started his own high tech company. In 2005, he planned to start another software company but was approached about the executive director's position at KMVT.
Szabo said he accepted the offer because he saw it as a way to combine his two careers: video production and executive management.
KMVT has a lean and mean staff of eight, six of them full-timers.
According to office manager Christina Hagan, Szabo is a caring boss who accomodates his staff members' needs.
"He knows I have a two-year-old daughter," said Hagan. "So he allows me a flexible schedule, as long as I finish my duties."
Hagan also said she feels very much trusted, working with Szabo.
"He lets me take care of all the small stuff for him so he can concentrate on the big stuff," said Hagan. "We work so well together. I'm very sad about his retirement, even though I know it's good for him to spend more time with his family at this stage of his life."
Szabo talked to Patch on camera about why he decided to retire this year. The video recording is attached to this article.
KMVT has chosen two final candidates from applicants for Szabo's position, and will most likely have the new executive director start after Labor Day, according to Hagan.