When looking for new ideas to boost revenue, don’t overlook what’s going on in the smaller markes. There, generating new business is often a matter of survival and GMs have more freedom to try new things. Here are some ideas that have worked for me and others. I’m a big believer that everything a station does should create a revenue stream.
If you really want to boost your revenue — and what TV station doesn’t — look first at what the best stations in small and mid-size markets are doing. They need to make something from nothing just to survive and they generally have more freedom to experiment than large market stations with meddlesome corporate bosses.
I know from experience.
I recently managed a turn-around duopoly that was getting back into the local news game. Among the things we were missing in our newscasts were big name local advertisers, especially car dealers.
We figured that if we could land just one dealer, it would stimulate interest from others. Car dealers are like that. Whatever one does, the rest will follow.
As the GM, I sat down with one of the largest local car dealers in town and frankly told them I wanted to use them to attract other dealers. I laid out a schedule, giving them one 30-second spot in every newscast and in every half hour of the morning newscast, seven days a week. This was a total of nine spots per day, over our two stations.
For this, I got a commitment of one year, non-cancelable, and a second year renewal option with a built-in increase. The contract was for about 60 percent of the actual value of the spots. But this was new revenue from an advertiser who had abandoned the station years before.
The sale worked. Our news shows looked busier and other advertisers, including other car dealers, followed.
I’m a big believer that everything a station does should create a revenue stream, even a sponsorship of a public service campaign. Look at what Bob Wise does at KOBI Medford, Ore., with his statewide campaign to fight meth abuse.
Wise was able to work out a campaign with advertisers and the state of Oregon to fight the problem. And it not only generates revenue for the station, it also provides fodder for the news and for promotional efforts.
In smaller markets, where the stations still produce local commercials, the creative services department can become a revenue generator by providing long-form videos for clients to use on their own Web sites. Stations should be aggressively going after this business.
The latest production gear is so capable that every station can have the bells and whistles with a relatively small investment. The key is to have a couple of strong production people.
Stations are being offered all kinds of new revenue opportunities by outside vendors. Many involve Web or mobile ventures.You should consider these services, but be careful. Do the due diligence.
I once lost a $100,000 annual sale on an online service involving long-form programming after we discovered in the first two weeks that the vendor couldn’t deliver. We not only lost the revenue, but also the advertiser, probably forever.
Make sure you shop every program around. If one company is offering you a service to generate new revenue then there are probably at least two or three other companies doing the same thing. Interview them. Make them do demonstrations for you and your sales managers. Find the right company that fits your personality and what you are trying to accomplish. Treat this like a job interview with a new employee. Check their references. And if they are a brand-new start up and you like the idea, get concessions for being the first.
That said, it’s still important that you be willing to take a chance. Not everything is going to work, but you have to be able to move forward when you have an opportunity. You can’t operate from fear. Do your research, put a game plan together, get everybody behind it and do it.
Look inside your TV operation and see what other revenue opportunities you might be missing. What about offering live commercials to a few select clients who are willing to pay a premium? Take some 90-second or two- minute commercial breaks and sell them to clients for a live remote.
How about product placement on your morning news? Don’t tell me about news integrity. I don’t think a McDonald’s coffee on the news desk is going to jeopardize the integrity of your news department.
Finally, whatever you do, monitor the progress. Watch it and measure it closely. Adjust where needed. Never stop doing this. Know your ROI on each project.
And remember the best ideas don’t always come from New York, Chicago and L.A.
Bill Evans is an experienced TV station general manager and senior group executive who has worked in small and mid-size markets. He can be reached at [email protected].