Gannett Broadcasting President Dave Lougee says he’s not worried about the affect of the Comcast-NBCU deal on his NBC affiliates. Ad trends at his stations are ” leaning toward positive” and expects a surge for next year’s Winter Olympics.
While the ramifications of Comcast’s purchase of NBCU continue to be weighed, Dave Lougee, president of Gannett Broadcasting, said Wednesday that he’s not overly concerned about the deal’s affect on Gannett’s NBC affiliates.
“While we are concerned about the network’s primetime rating performance, that is not new,” Lougee said, speaking at the UBS Investment Bank Global Media and Communications in New York.
As far as our view of Comcast assuming majority ownership of NBCU, he said, “there’s still a lot to play out with the regulators. We are overall positive and cautiously optimistic about the acquisition. We suspect they will be very focused on the improvement of NBC,” Lougee said.
Meantime, Lougee said his group is entering into 2010 with signs that the economic woes of 2009 — which Lougee said he “knew it would be a challenging year and that was an understatement” — are starting to subside, as the underlying trends in business today are leaning toward positive.
Fourth-quarter television advertising is seeing year-over-year increases in every category but automotive — but even that is improving, he said.
Gannett stations also are benefiting from “unprecedented” political spending in a non-political year, primarily due to the health care debate, Lougee said.
With both an election and the Winter Olympics on the 2010 horizon, Lougee said he expects another surge in spending in the near future, particularly on the company’s NBC affiliates that will carry Olympics coverage.
There is, however, concern that even political and Olympics spending will continue to reel from economic concerns, he said. Campaign spending in particular, he said, could be affected if overall fundraising is down.
According to Lougee and other Gannett executives, who also spoke today, the company’s broadcasting division was one several divisions companywide — newspapers and digital included — that are heading into 2010 with cautiously optimistic prospects after a year of cuts and consolidation.
Gannett Broadcasting centralized operations such as master control and the production of news graphics.
Similar moves were made in the company’s publishing division, which now out sources the printing of 53 percent of its newspapers, company leaders said.
Meantime, the Gannett executives reiterated the company’s commitment to offering engaging, cross-platform advertising opportunities that will keep its various properties — from traditional media to on-line properties like CareerBuilder .com — profitable despite the proliferation of media.
Craig Dubow, Gannett ‘s president-CEO, said he still sees the company’s local media properties as the company core — and will be those assets that have the most to gain as the economy rebounds.
In the larger picture, though, Dubow said the company’s recent restructuring that cut costs while improving its ability to meet consumer demand was key to surviving 2009 — and prospering in the years ahead.
“Today we sit as a stronger and better-positioned company,” he said. But “I won’t say for moment that it’s been easy.”