Ted Koplar, real estate mogul and former KMAX-TV owner, dies at 77

(Photo courtesy Koplar Communications, Graphic by The Desk)

Edward “Ted” Koplar, a real estate mogul from the Midwest who owned local broadcast television stations across the country, died this weekend at his home in St. Louis at the age of 77.

Koplar started his career in the late 1950s when he and his father launched KPLR-TV (Channel 11) in St. Louis. After helping the station produce a significant amount of sports and news broadcasts, Koplar rose to the top, eventually becoming the company’s president and chief executive.

Under his leadership, Koplar Communications acquired several small, mostly-independent television stations across the country. In the early 1980s, Koplar negotiated a deal to purchase Spanish-language television station KMUV (Channel 31) in Sacramento. He later changed the call letters of the station to KRBK, which contained the initials of his brother, Robert Koplar.

KRBK grew under Koplar’s leadership to become a strong, independent station in Northern California, competing head-to-head with the area’s other two independent stations, KSCH (Channel 58, now MyNetwork affiliate KQCA) and KTXL (Channel 40, now a Fox affiliate). The station offered top-tier syndicated television shows and movies, and launched a late-night news broadcast under the “Action News 31” brand.

“Koplar was an interesting guy, to say the least,” Scott Jones, a former news director at KRBK who now runs the popular industry blog FTV Live, wrote in an obituary. “But he did have a heart of gold.”

In 1994, Koplar sold KRBK to Pappas Telecasting, which affiliated the station with the fledgling WB network and changed the call letters to KPWB. (The station, now known as KMAX, is owned by ViacomCBS as part of a duopoly with KOVR-TV, Channel 13.)

The KRBK call letters re-surfaced in 2009 when they were assigned to a Fox affiliate (Channel 49) in Osage Beach, Missouri, where they remain today.

Both KPLR and the present-day KRBK are now owned by Nexstar Media Group, which also operates KTXL in Sacramento.

Koplar was involved with a number of other businesses, including a video production company called World Events Productions (WEP) that mostly focused on local sports and events before branching out into animation. One popular cartoon produced by WEP, called “Voltron: Defender of the Universe,” was eventually syndicated to more than seven dozen countries; DreamWorks began producing a live action version of the film several years ago.

Koplar also saw the launch of Koplar Interactive Systems, an audio and video technology company now known as VEIL. The company produced interactive, video-based technology that allowed toys and other products to react to signals being sent through television programs, including “Voltron” and an animated version of “Batman.”

Koplar’s efforts were acknowledged by the National Association of Television Arts and Sciences in 2013 with induction into the group’s Gold Circle, which recognizes more than 50 years of commitment to the broadcast television industry.

The fruits of Koplar’s broadcast and video technology efforts led him to invest in several real estate projects, mostly in his home state of Missouri. In 2006, Koplar and his son committed more than $20 million towards rehabilitation of a retail center in the Central West End neighborhood of St. Louis.

Koplar is survived by his wife, Nancy Koplar, five children, 11 grandchildren and his sister.

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