As new top CBS local media managers, Peter Dunn (right) and Anton Guitano are crafting a strategy that’s aimed at getting their TV and radio stations working together, especially online. Among other things, they want to merge local TV and radio Web sites. “We want to make [each site] hyperlocal, equivalent to the best local paper with all the local information” and links to CBS’ national sites, says Guitano
The nation’s second-largest TV station group with $1.6 billion in 2008 revenue (according to BIAfn), CBS Television Stations underwent a major front-office shakeup last month.
Tom Kane, the longtime head of the group, was bounced and Peter Dunn, the general manager of flagship WCBS New York, was installed in his place.
In the new order, Dunn will continue to manage WCBS and will work closely with Anton Guitano, newly appointed as COO of CBS Local Media. In this new role, Guitano reports to Dunn and to Dan Mason, president of CBS Radio.
But, significantly, Guitano will also report to CBS CEO Leslie Moonves. That will give him the muscle he needs to get TV and radio working together in a common local media strategy.
Dunn and Guitano are veteran broadcasters and CBS executives.
Prior to running WCBS, Dunn was president of sales for the group and spot sales operations for the group. He also served a stint as GM of CBS’s stations in Philadelphia, KYW and WPSG.
Guitano has been with CBS for 31 years, most recently as CFO and senior executive vice president, operations, for CBS Radio. Before that, he was executive vice president of operators for the TV group.
In this interview with TVNewsCheck Editor Harry A. Jessell, Dunn and Guitano explain the local cross-platform strategy, which involves merging the local news-and-information Web sites of the TV and radio stations and going head-to-head with local newspaper sites.
An edited transcript:
Peter heads the TV stations and Dan Mason heads the radio stations. I get that. What exactly is Anton’s role in all this?
Guitano: First of all, it’s taking TV and radio, the two local businesses that we’re going to be overseeing, and trying to figure out how we’re going to get the best out of both by getting them to work together.
I have worked a long time in TV and the last two years in radio. One of the things I’ve learned is TV stations do certain things very, very well and other things not so well. Likewise, radio stations have certain things that they do very well that TV doesn’t do so well. So it’s trying to bring the best of both together so that we can maximize our local assets.
One of the things that we just did was look at our major markets and say what is our reach when you put our TV stations, radio stations and our Web assets together.
It’s not going to be a cookie-cutter approach to how we implement this across our markets. Peter, Dan Mason and I will be traveling to all the markets starting with the big ones and sitting down with the general managers and department heads. We want to figure out what makes the most sense in each market. We will be giving them suggestions and ideas that have come up in other markets, but we’re not going to force them on people. We’re going to be more like coaches.
Dunn: We have done a lot of this in the past — sharing content and cross-promotion with radio and television. But this time around, having it come from the top with Leslie on board, it’s different. Everybody thinks it’s a great idea. We’re going about it in a way that we should have done a while ago because there have been many missed opportunities. Now that we’re all on the same page, it’s actually going to work a lot better.
What kinds of things are you talking about?
Guitano: For example, when we look at political — 2010 is going to be a big political year — TV stations have done really, really well over the years, whereas radio has not done so well. So we’re hoping to be able to go into these political agencies and show them the benefits of buying TV and radio together and the efficiencies that that will bring to bear.
Radio has done a very good job of selling digital, whereas TV may not have done quite as well. So we’re going to try to get some of our radio people to teach the TV people how to sell local digital better.
So are we going to see a lot of cross-platform selling?
Dunn: When you combine all of our assets together, the client will actually get a lot more for his money at the end of the day. So that’s one thing I’m really looking forward to because, as Anton said, we have a lot of strength in TV and radio and digital and we have got to combine those strengths a lot more than we have had in the past.
Guitano: In New York, for example, if you look at just adults 18-plus, across all three platforms, we reach, just in basic coverage, more than 80 percent of that total audience. If you then look at households that are making $100,000 or more, we’re almost at 90 percent. There’s efficiency there. We can go into an advertiser and say, look at what you can do with one-stop shopping.
Do you expect anything else from this local media synergy?
Guitano: Yes. Those are obvious revenue ideas. There are definitely great opportunities for cross-promotion. We also have some great talent on both the TV and radio sides and we believe there are opportunities for us to utilize them on the other medium.
So we’re going to see Boomer and Carton on WCBS-TV? [Editor’s note: former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton are hosts of a morning sports talk show on WFAN-AM New York.]
Dunn: It’s funny you should ask because at the parade for the Yankees we actually had Carton on our air helping our talent do kind of a play-by-play for the parade. It worked out well because all morning long he promoted it on The Fan. We were No. 1 in the men demos and adult demos for that day.
A lot of our reporters that do television are already on the air for 880 [WCBS-AM] as well. It’s a huge competitive advantage that the other networks don’t have.
I noticed that here in New York WCBS-AM and WCBS-TV have two very similar Web sites. They both do news and information. Any thought about combining those into one site?
Guitano: Yes. What we’re going to do is we’re going to aggregate the sites and come up with one site in each market that will incorporate the news, sports, weather. We want to make it hyperlocal, equivalent to the best local paper with all the local information and then have links to our assets outside of the local areas such as CBS News.com, CBSSports.com, etc.
I count at least 14 markets where you have TV and radio stations. In how many of those markets will you merge your local sites?
Anton: We would do it in all 14 markets.
How is the fourth quarter shaping up?
Dunn: New York is healthy because of all the political we had in the beginning of the quarter and a lot of the categories that had gotten us into problems in the beginning of the year have turned out to fair really well. The automotive category has come back a lot. Retail has come back as well. So we’re back on track. It’s not the way it used to be, but we’re showing some great signs of progress at the end of this year. Basically, it’s ending up a lot stronger than you would have thought after the second and third quarters.
Can you give me year-over-year percentages?
Guitano: No. We don’t do that.
What about 2010? Do you expect the positive trends to continue into the first quarter?
Dunn: For the first quarter, it’s nice to have the Super Bowl. It’s nice to have the ratings performance on our stations. Our primetime is doing fabulously, which helped our late news in some markets where it wasn’t doing as well as it has in the past. Now, we’re also gaining a lot of momentum in late fringe. The Conan-and-Letterman situation has really changed late fringe in New York. On some days, Letterman is beating Leno. So, the budgets might be smaller, but I think the CBS stations are getting a bigger share of the business.
So you’ve been able to capitalize on the Leno situation?
Dunn: Absolutely. As I said, Letterman is doing fabulously against Conan. We told the buyers that Leno would be a late fringe buy even though the other guys were trying to sell it as prime. Now, when you look at the numbers, it’s obvious that it’s a late fringe buy. So it’s really helped the CBS group.
You just had a big change in your No. 2 market. You replaced Patrick McClenahan with Steve Mauldin in Los Angeles.
Dunn: He was in our Dallas duopoly for about seven years and prior to that he was in our Miami station for about four years. When he left Miami, the station was doing phenomenally as far as ratings and revenue, and he did the same thing in Dallas. He left Dallas with the No. 1 late news, which probably hasn’t happened ever in that market. So he really attacks the problems and he’s very aggressive and he knows L.A. He used to work there many, many years ago in sales for ABC. So I think it’s going to be a good move for us and him.
Are the other GMs on notice? Should we expect other changes up and down the line?
Dunn: No. I just think L.A. is a huge opportunity for us. It’s our biggest market outside of New York. With the duopoly, it’s huge. So I think the experience that he offers will be a big help for us.
Over the last few years you have shed some of your smaller market stations. Are we going to see more of that?
Dunn: I don’t know. It’s too soon to tell. I really haven’t looked into that as of now. The big priority is fixing the bigger stations and making sure we evaluate and get as much revenue out of those markets as we can. The other part of the equation we’ll get to eventually, but it’s too soon to tell.
The follow-up question is about the standalone CW stations. What’s the sense of hanging on to those?
Dunn: It’s good content. They have an audience in our marketplace and they do fairly well. As long as we’re making money, I don’t have a problem with them at all. We run them pretty lean.
Guitano: Tampa and Atlanta are run out of Norfolk. To Peter’s point, there isn’t a lot of cost in those stations even though they’re standalones.
We’ve talked a little bit about what you’re doing on the revenue side. What about on the cost side? Do you think you have taken as much cost out of your stations as you can?
Guitano: We are always looking at how to be more efficient. Over the last couple of years, both TV and radio have taken substantial costs out of their budgets through a top-to-bottom review, market by market, of our cost structure. Are there additional efficiencies that may come out? Yes, but the purpose of putting radio and TV together is more for growing the top line versus a concern about our cost line.
Are you planning on any significant technical upgrades in 2010 to improve service or simply to increase efficiency?
Guitano: No. We have done all of that over the last year and a half. So I don’t see us doing much more of that in order to cut costs. I think our costs are very well under control. The issue is just as Peter said before. We have to grow that top line.
CBS has never had much of a DTV strategy, choosing to stick with 1080i HD, which uses a lot of your digital bandwidth. Is that going to change under the new regime?
Dunn: It’s too soon to say because I haven’t seen anything that’s good enough to put on there and that actually can make a lot of revenue for us. I think the quality of our sports is awesome because of [1080i HD]. But if something comes along that we think is great for our stations, we would look into it.
I assume you’re talking about multicasting. What about mobile DTV? Other broadcasters seem to be pretty excited about that.
Dunn: It’s something we’re looking into.
CBS was among the broadcasters with Fox in news sharing arrangements in several markets. How is that going? Do you see more of that happening?
Dunn: I know Chicago is doing very well with it. I talked to [WBBM GM] Bruno [Cohen] just last week about it. It’s doing well here in New York as well. It’s great to cover sports. We don’t have to be at Yankee Stadium and Citi Field all the time. The greatest thing is, it helps out with the total number of crews. There’s no reason why six people should show up for the same press conference. So it’s helped out as far as content is concerned and it’s also helped on the cost side.
Let’s talk a little bit about programming. What are you guys looking at to replace As The World Turns in the fall?
Dunn: That’s the network’s job.
Guitano: I don’t think it’s been announced yet by the network.
What kind of license-fee discount did you get on the renewal of Dr. Phil?
Dunn: Next question.
Was it significant?
Dunn: Enough to make sense to go forward with.
As a group that has had to compete with Oprah over the years, will you be happy to see her go?
Dunn: For the most part, Judge Judy did a really good job going up against Oprah and helping our 5 o’clock news. So, from a company standpoint, I think it’s sad to see her go because, you know, it’s part of our syndication arm. From a competitive standpoint, I think we can actually do a lot better now without her on some of the ABC stations. So the answer is yes and no.