This year’s annual conference in Las Vegas will tackle the DTV transition, the ENG microwave upgrade, changes in audience measurement, new media opportunities, the trend toward privatization of publicy owned companies and, of course, the usual front-office issues.
While 2007 marks an entirely new year, there’s sure to be a lot that’s familiar about it, just like the names and days of the months that will mark its passing. So, what will be the new challenges and what from 2006 will follow us into 2007?
Those questions have been receiving a lot of attention from the co-chairs for this year’s BCFM/BCCA Annual Conference, Tony Vasconcellos, executive vice president and CFO of Regent Communications and vice chairman of BCFM’s board of directors, and John Kampfe, senior VP, corporate controller/CAO of Turner Broadcasting System.
And a preview of the agenda of the conference (May 22-24 at the Rio Suites Hotel in Las Vegas) should give you a good idea about the issues that they and their Conference Planning Committee expect to take, or remain, on center stage in the coming months:
Digital Television—In May, we will be less than 24 months away from the FCC’s mandate for all television stations to be broadcasting digitally on their assigned new spectrum. NAB says that more than 1,500 stations in 211 markets are already broadcasting in digital. In addition to broadcasting in HDTV, many of these stations are multicasting additional ad-supported channels, often in concert with their local cable operators. Conference attendees will hear some of the success stories that can help to make the investments in DTV worthwhile.
Nextel—In response to an FCC order designed to eliminate interference with public safety communications, Nextel will vacate spectrum in the 700 and 800 MHz bands in exchange for 10 MHz of spectrum in the 1.9 GHz band. Because part of the 1.9 GHz spectrum assigned to Nextel was granted to broadcasters as part of their FCC licenses and used to transmit live, on location news reports, Nextel has agreed to pay an estimated $2.5 billion for relocating the incumbents to the 2 GHz BAS band. These reimbursements will cover the licensees’ cost of the transition, which involves stations replacing their analog equipment with digital equipment in vans, receive sites, towers, control systems, IFB systems and news helicopters. A conference session reviewing the reimbursement process, including a discussion of the tax implications, is a great example of how we are delivering on the conference’s “Learn More ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ Win Big” theme.
The New Ratings Game—While no one likes to think about viewership ratings as a game of chance, conference attendees know they can’t afford to take chances with how proposed changes in audience measurement will affect the agreements with advertisers that rely upon ratings data. After all, as Sir Francis Bacon so accurately said, “Knowledge is power.”
Going Private—There will be several M&A sessions at this year’s conference that address the trend toward the privatization of publicly owned companies. Attendees will explore the latest developments in financing leveraged buyouts; what does—and doesn’t—change in accounting and reporting requirements after M&A transactions; and learn about some of the tax ramifications.
The National Economy—With 2007 devoid of Olympics and national elections, what other factors will affect our ad revenue expectations? Conference keynoter Gregory Miller, first VP and chief economist of SunTrust Banks, will help us answer that question. Miller, the featured presenter at last year’s CFO Roundtable, is an expert on interest rate trends and other market factors that will have an impact on ad-supported media. His open, easy, presentation style guarantees that everyone who attends will walk away having learned more than they expected.
New Media Opportunities for Traditional Media Companies—With online advertising revenue gaining a larger share of the national ad market, the conference will explore the media industry’s expansion into new platforms, including online and mobile video. In addition to case studies from companies such as Scripps and CBS, attendees will learn what they need to know about the accounting procedures and reporting requirements that come along with cross-platform ventures.
Getting Back to the Basics—It’s often not the new activity that holds the most promise for a more prosperous New Year. True to its 47-year tradition, the BCFM/BCCA Conference will feature dozens of sessions with topics such as credit and collections, employment practices, music licensing and IT, in which attendees learn how to play a winning hand on day-to-day operational activities that can make or break the P&L.
I hope you’ll stay tuned to my upcoming Front Office columns for the latest developments on these and other issues affecting the financial performance of your companies. My thanks to TVNewsCheck for providing us with this forum and, from everyone at BCFM and BCCA, our very best wishes for a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year!
Mary Collins in the president of the Broadcast Cable Financial Management Association, a professional society for financial, MIS and HR executives in the electronic media. Her column appears here every other Friday. She can be contacted at [email protected] or 847-716-7000.