Television pioneer Ted Koplar dies at 77

KPLR

ST. LOUIS, Mo. – A local television pioneer has died. Edward J. “Ted” Koplar passed away peacefully at his home surrounded by his family April 4, 2021.

Koplar grew St. Louis-based KPLR-TV into one of the most successful independent television stations in the country.

In a career filled with accomplishments, Koplar also launched Voltron, an animated TV sensation that swept the nation, and pioneered a revolutionary technology that made television interactive. Ted Koplar was 77.

Watch KPLR News at 4:00 pm for a report.

Links to donate in memory of Ted Koplar:

This statement was issued by Koplar Communications:

Launching his broadcast career with family-owned KPLR-TV, Koplar worked behind the scenes producing sports programming and other shows. He developed the station’s first regular newscast, which became the No. 1 independent television newscast in the U.S. within three years of launching.

Identifying and cultivating local talent was a passion for Koplar. In addition to assembling memorable news, weather and sports reporters, he brought together some of the region’s best singers and dancers. Koplar founded Team 11 as a station-sponsored teenage dance group that performed at local events and in area high schools and served as positive role models for children and young adults. Several of Team 11’s stars went on to enjoy great success on local and national stages.

Koplar met the love of his life, Nancy Scanlon, when she appeared on the “Harry Fender Show” broadcast out of the Steeplechase Room of the Chase Park Plaza in 1973. He asked the producer for an introduction, they talked the rest of the evening in the lobby of the Chase, and he knew right away she was the woman he wanted to marry. After a persistent courtship he won her over and they were married in 1974.

Koplar worked his way up the ranks at KPLR to become president and CEO in 1979. Proving itself to be “The Ones to Watch,” KPLR featured Cardinals baseball, Blues hockey and must-see programming such as Cheers, Seinfeld, and one of Koplar’s personal favorites, The Three Stooges. Under Koplar’s leadership, KPLR was consistently ranked among the top independent television stations in the country, making its way to No. 1 on several occasions. After an extraordinary run as an independent station, KPLR became affiliated with the WB network in 1995 and was sold to Acme Communications in 1998. 

In 1980, Koplar founded World Events Productions, Ltd. (WEP), a company whose mission was to seek out and produce innovative programming concepts unlike anything that was then seen on the air. Its namesake show, World Events, starred Bud Palmer and Frances Kolten and featured a young Bob Costas. The program covered such events as the Paris Air Show and a speech by General Omar Bradley commemorating the 40thAnniversary of the Normandy D-Day Invasion.

In 1982, WEP formed its own sanctioning body, KICK, and produced kickboxing events with shows emanating nationally, from Caesars Palace in Las Vegas and Madison Square Garden in New York. Branching into animation, in 1984 WEP introduced the mega-hit series Voltron: Defender of the Universe, which became an overnight sensation and aired in more than 80 countries worldwide. Leaving an indelible mark on children’s animation and pop culture, Voltron spawned several follow-on series including Voltron: The Third Dimension in 1998, Voltron Force in 2011, and, in partnership with DreamWorks Animation, Voltron Legendary Defender in 2016, and is currently being developed as a live action feature film.

In search of new ways to engage audiences, in 1987 Koplar formed Koplar Interactive Systems, Inc. (KISI) based in Beaverton, Oregon. The company developed a way of sending information through a television’s video signal. Koplar later moved KISI’s headquarters from Beaverton to Rolla, Missouri, using the capabilities of the Missouri School of Science and Technology to advance KISI from analog to digital, advancing from a video-based technology to an audio-based system.

In 2005, Koplar, along with his son Sam, renovated Maryland Plaza in St. Louis, reviving the Central West End neighborhood and turning the area into an urban retail destination. Composed of both retail and commercial business owners, the area offers a diverse, sophisticated clientele and a high-end selection of boutiques and restaurants. 

Jumping headfirst back into broadcasting in 2009, Koplar obtained a new construction permit from the FCC and founded KRBK-TV, a full-power television station licensed to Springfield, Missouri. KRBK was built from the ground up as a state-of-the-art digital station and has remained at the forefront of the latest technology, pioneering one of the nation’s first distributed transmission systems (DTS). In 2011, KRBK became the Fox affiliate for the Springfield market and Koplar grew its presence in the community before selling the station in 2018.

In September 2013, Koplar was inducted into the Gold Circle by the National Association of Television Arts and Sciences, Mid America Chapter. The prestigious Gold Circle is comprised of individuals who have contributed 50 years or more of service to the television industry.

Koplar balanced his career with community service. He served on the Board of Directors for the Foundation for Barnes Jewish Hospital from 2002 to 2019; served on the Board of Directors for the Nine Network since 2008, where he served as Chairman from 2011 to 2012; has served on the Missouri University of Science and Technology Engineering Advisory Board since 2008, where he served as Chairman from 2011 to 2012.

His sons, Robert and Sam, worked alongside Koplar at Koplar Communications’ St. Louis office.

Despite all of his career accomplishments, Koplar’s primary focus was always his family, where his role as a devoted husband, father and grandfather was always first in his heart.

He is survived by his wife of 45 years, Nancy Scanlon Koplar, and their five children Emilee Koplar Wolfe (Brian), Robert “Bob” (Emily), Alison Koplar Wyatt (Zach), Sam Koplar (Ashley Beleos) and Kevin Koplar. He is also survived by his sister, Susan Brown, and 11 adoring grandchildren.

Funeral services will be private.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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