COMMENTARY BY ED MARTIN

State Of The Sitcom Isn’t So Bad After All

Ed Martin: “One of the big stories during the 2013-14 “traditional” broadcast season has been the uncertain future (or “death” in some circles) of the network sitcom. I have to wonder what all the hand-wringing is about.”

COMMENTARY BY FRED CAMPBELL

Congress Shouldn’t Carry Water For Pay TV

Fred Campbell, executive director of the Center for Boundless Innovation in Technology: “Pay-TV providers want to have it both ways. They want the ability to blackout channels they don’t think they need while asking Congress to prevent broadcasters from withholding their programming when video providers refuse to pay. Enhancing the power of pay-TV providers over programming in this way might improve their bottom line, but it wouldn’t benefit consumers. Congress should just say no.”

COMMENTARY BY MICHAEL WOLFF

Putting Journalism Cart Before The Ad Horse

Michael Wolff on the flurry of new journalism startups: “These new efforts and personalities represent smidgen-size audiences that would, from a business perspective, hardly be worth commenting on, except for the fact that the people doing the commenting — other journalists — believe that perhaps, in a declining profession, this could be a new life.”

COMMENTARY BY TOM KLIMCHECK

Local TV News: Too Dumb To Watch

A former news viewer in Pittsburgh writes: “Once upon a time the TV news departments were considered a public service function and we had actual meaningful news. At some point along the way someone came up with the bright idea that the news could be a profit center … instead of being a public service, and things began to change. What has evolved is only a faint remnant of what TV used to be and what it still could be if some executives would realize that quality content sells soap. Instead we are bombarded with a barrage of shameless self-promotion for the sake of ratings.”

COMMENTARY BY JAMES PONIEWOZIK

Nipplegate 10 Years Later: A Flash In The Pan

Decency crusaders thought it would be a pop-culture 9/11. But if the Janet Jackson incident changed anything, it was the belief that one controversy could turn back the cultural clock.

COMMENTARY

Mark Fowler: FCC Guilty Of ‘Broadband Bias’

The former FCC chairman writes in The Wall Street Journal: “For the past five years, the FCC has cheered wireless broadband as the future of communications. But television broadcasters have much of the spectrum that wireless companies want. So the FCC has intervened to reassign chunks of spectrum from one group to another — and its broadband bias comes at the expense of broadcasters.” WSJ subscribers can read the full story here.

COMMENTARY BY JOE MARCHESE

TV Everywhere’s Problem? No One Wants It

Joe Marchese, CEO of true[X] media: “I would argue that the real problem with TV Everywhere is that it’s an unwanted solution to a problem that people don’t really have. Despite what the pundits say, people don’t want a “TV” experience everywhere. Seriously, who honestly likes the user interface of their TV? Even video-on-demand leaves us wanting a better solution. Consumers take their content with them around the house — and beyond. That doesn’t mean we want to port the remote + set-top-box experience everywhere as well.”

COMMENTARY BY BLAKE BURRUS

The Case For More Effective Short-Form Ads

The 15-second ad is already “the new black,” but it has yet to achieve the same level of audience engagement as its 30-second and one-minute predecessors. Advertisers must now explore this new frontier further to make short-form ads more effective, regardless of the platform.

COMMENTARY BY COURT CUNNINGHAM

10 Important Local Marketing Trends For 2014

The digital world that small businesses need to navigate becomes increasingly more complicated each year. But Court Cunningham, CEO of Yodle, says that new trends in store for 2014 will help simplify SMBs’ digital marketing efforts. “In 2014, I believe the complexities in local online marketing will continue to grow, but as local marketing automation systems emerge this complexity will become manageable and simplified for SMBs,” Cunningham says.

COMMENTARY BY RICK KAPLAN

It’s Time For A Moment Of Reflection, CCA

In December, the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA), a trade association that represents most wireless carriers with the exception of Verizon Wireless and AT&T, filed comments at the FCC in response to the proposed rulemaking to eliminate the so-called UHF discount. The filing would be downright funny if it wasn’t so desperate, specious and irresponsible. The issue has absolutely no impact on the wireless industry. So why would CCA file? Was it a mistake?

COMMENTARY BY FRANK DEFORD

Supporting The Home Team From Your Couch

Nowadays, do sports fans have to show their support by purchasing tickets? After all, the NFL makes much more from TV than at the box office. Aren’t you doing your fair share by staying comfy warm downstairs by your own huge high-definition TV, where you’re surrounded by chosen friends and family, and have your own choice refreshments and your own toilet facilities?

COMMENTARY BY HAL BOEDEKER

Bragging Remains A Drag On Local News

The Orlando Sentinel‘s Hal Boedeker: “Just when 2013 was almost over, I was reminded of one of my least favorite topics: the incessant bragging in local TV news.”

COMMENTARY BY ROB NORMAN

Why Hard News Is A Hard Sell For Advertisers

Digitally delivered news, both hard and soft, appears to combine reach, popularity, engagement and authority like no other collective of digital assets. And individual news outlets engage their readers and viewers frequently. The uncomfortable truth, however, is that the advertiser has not followed the user. If ever there was a misalignment of time spent and the allocation of advertiser dollars, this is it.

COMMENTARY BY DAN GILLMOR

The Future Of Journalism Isn’t Bleak

Even as today’s major journalistic institutions struggle to adapt, media startups and investigative outlets carry the torch.

COMMENTARY BY DON SHELBY

An Ex-Anchorman’s Take On ‘Anchorman 2’

Longtime WCCO Minneapolis anchor Don Shelby: “I laughed until I cried and I hung my head in shame one recent weekend in New York. After you see the movie and laugh at the ridiculousness of television news as Ron Burgundy portrays it, go home and ask whether what passes as journalism today really is journalism. For those of us who tried to inform, it is not easy to see television journalism turned into a punchline.”

COMMENTARY BY LEE SPIECKERMAN

Counterpoint: The Seattle Times Got It Wrong

The Seattle Times and its publisher, Frank Blethen, have long styled themselves as crusaders for independent journalism and freedom of the press. So, it’s both discordant and disappointing that a recent editorial in The Times called for heavy-handed federal government intervention to limit media companies’ ability to acquire and run more TV stations.

CRITIC'S CHOICE

The Best & Worst Television Shows Of 2013

Hank Stuever of the Washington Post: “My favorite TV shows this year were dour, cruel and often violent affairs — even my favorite reality-based show was about death. What’s wrong with me? (Don’t answer that.) Here are my picks for the TV’s best offerings in 2013. And I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t also include a list of letdowns, too.”

COMMENTARY BY CHRIS SHIPLEY

Do Too Many Options Erode News Relevance?

The emergence of the 24/7 news cycle, along with new formats and sources of news delivery, appear to have eroded news consumers’ engagement with and trust in established news media. For a time at least, it seemed that the more news that was available to news consumers, the less that news was perceived as credible.

COMMENTARY BY J.R. MAHON

5 Investments Local TV Needs To Make In ’14

With 2014 just around the corner, some local TV newsrooms are still dawdling when it comes to moving into the digital era. “Many newsrooms will need measurable Web-based improvements in 2014, which will entail spending and newsroom cultural shifting,” says KSBW San Diego’s J.R. Mahon. Here are five most essential digital investments for broadcast newsrooms in the coming year.

COMMENTARY BY ED MARTIN

Giving Thanks For The ‘Classic TV’ Diginets

The years when television offered so much innocent fun are long gone, but wonderful memories remain. It is in that context that I also feel thankful for the sudden abundance of retro-programming networks — all of which, I’m pleased to say, are available to me on my cable system. Amid the madness and the multitasking and the mounting daily stresses of this new millennium, there are instant diversions to be found on Me-TV, Antenna TV, This TV and Cozi TV.

NEWS ANALYSIS BY MICHAEL DEPP

Scripps’ TV Paywall: Dividing Industry Line?

E.W. Scripps on Thursday shocked the broadcast TV world by announcing that it was raising a paywall for the site of its Cincinnati ABC affiliate WCPO. Michael Depp: “With this move, there is no doubt that Scripps takes its digital platform gravely seriously. What we’ll now see is if the wall it’s building in Cincinnati is more than just between paying subscribers and less-committed users.”

COMMENTARY BY TERRY HEATON

Should Local Businesses Prefer Local Media?

Nearly half of all local advertising dollars are going to Internet pureplays. And while big national companies such as Google, Yahoo, Reach Local, Groupon, Autotrader and Zillow might help local businesses target customers, most of that ad money is leaving the market and doing nothing to boost the local economy. By spending with local media — companies that pay taxes and employ local residents — businesses can help flow more cash into their local markets.

COMMENTARY BY KEN KERSCHBAUMER

A Pause To Reflect On The State Of 4K TV

The year 2013 may very well be remembered some day as the year when the 4K movement began, but will 2014 be the year it becomes reality? Is 4K destined to be the next 3D or the first 4K? The answer to that question will not be known for a few years, but one large factor may contribute its long-term success: the current inability to deliver 4K content via traditional broadcast, satellite, and cable/telco pipes.

COMMENTARY BY PHIL MUSHNICK

Do Local News Anchors Think We’re Idiots?

Whose idea was it to have news anchors explain what we just saw or to confer congratulations on reporters? There are now so many reasons to avoid watching local news — network promos posed as news, bogus “breaking news” and frenzy-whipped weather forecasts that call for winter weather in January — why degrade the legitimate stuff while further degrading your audiences?

STATION ADVISORY

Taking A Narrow View Of The UHF Discount

Like the story of the blind men and the elephant, the FCC’s proposal to eliminate the UHF discount thrusts out its hand, touching only one aspect of the FCC’s ownership rules, and risks discovering later that there is much more to the elephant than its tail.

COMMENTARY BY MATTHEW DAVIS

It’s Time To Reinvent The News App

Local news apps are in trouble. Large Internet companies are making direct plays for local news audiences, who tend to consume only a small slice of content via mobile. “The implications for local media,” says StepLeader’s Matthew Davis, “The delivery and presentation of news into the app environment is ready for an overhaul.”

COMMENTARY BY TERRY HEATON

Mobile News Needs Technology Overhaul

Mobile is unlike anything media companies have seen before, not just because of the new opportunities that portability brings, but because it levels the playing field between consumer and media professional. Because their is no “audience” for mobile Web, only participants, media companies need to devise a new approach. Terry Heaton: “Mobile news demands its own model, because mobile is its own form of media. It’s not an extension of the way we currently do things; it’s entirely new, because the consumers of news have exactly the same gear we in media have, and that creates a paradigm never seen before in the history of newsgathering or news making.”

COMMENTARY BY PHIL MUSHNICK

TV Violence Pushes Vulnerable To Brink

What TV now does far better than ever before is push the vulnerable closer to or beyond their brink. It’s difficult to afflict the well-adjusted, to have them do a 180. Maybe the repetitive, antisocial messages that all forms of entertainment have become reliant upon can move them a few degrees off, but nothing that would have them storm a campus with an AK47. But if the vulnerable are moved even one or two degrees toward or off their brink, if the messages become a prompt…. TV’s always there to give the vulnerable that extra little push, the kind that makes all of us vulnerable.

SALES OFFICE BY ABBY AUERBACH

Drunk Driving Hits A Broadcast Roadblock

Since its inception 10 years ago, over half of all Americans recognize the anti-drunk driving PSAs of Project Roadblock. More importantly, awareness among the intended men 21-35 target demo is at 60%. Project Roadblock’s success is possible because of the concern and cooperation of our nation’s broadcast television stations — more than 1,300 primary and D2 stations participated in Project Roadblock 2012.

COMMENTARY BY TERRY HEATON

The Media Must Rethink Its Infrastructure

The Web has made media’s simple business model — making content and selling advertising — very complex. Now, technology has made it possible for audiences to consume media content at their will, undermining the value of mass marketing. “In the network, it’s just not natural for the individual infrastructures of individual media companies to exist as they do offline. The net would rather go from author to reader directly, and that is something media companies just cannot abide,” Terry Heaton says.

COMMENTARY BY TERRY HEATON

Put Local Digital Back In Local Hands

Local media companies need to decentralize their digital ad efforts and put the control and technology in the hands of their local people, rather than rely on the “Industrial Age” practice of centralization, says Terry Heaton. “Centralized command-and-control groups amount to third-party ad networks, and what’s good for the network isn’t necessarily good for the local property. It doesn’t matter if such a structure is considered ‘best practices’ within the industry; it’s headed down a very long highway to inadequacy,” he says.

SALES OFFICE BY STACEY LYNN SCHULMAN

Why Broadcast Still Wins With Viewers

What broadcast networks do particularly well is build nights of television with audience flow. This is why, despite the appearance of a few bright spots in cable television, viewers are not congregating and staying with cable content throughout a night in the same way they do with broadcast. There is content there, but collectively, it’s not much of a draw. It takes more than a handful of original shows to create a destination for viewers.

COMMENTARY BY ANDREW DODSON

Aereo Is A Winner In My Book And Here’s Why

Broadcasters aren’t going to like hearing this, but in the short amount of time I’ve served as an Aereo beta tester in Denver, I’ve been very impressed by the controversial streaming service. Image quality is great, the cloud DVR is more useful than I thought and I get access to 26 channels from anywhere in the Denver area with an Internet connection.

COMMENTARY BY ANDREW DODSON

Apple TV Could Provide Local News Platform

Apple is rumored to update its Apple TV set-top box at a media event tomorrow. If it does, broadcasters should hope for an open SDK to let developers create apps for the platform. A TV version of the App Store could give local broadcasters a new channel in the over-the-top ecosystem that lets viewers catch up on news from the day and watch live newscasts.

SALES OFFICE BY DON SEAMAN

Ranking Television’s Hierarchy Of Needs

As an industry, we frequently talk about the complexity of today’s television ecosystem.  Nearly every aspect of television is complicated.  Multiple screens and thousands of content options have complicated the “what” and the “where.” Behavioral targeting has complicated the “who” of viewing. Nothing is simple. So knowing that, why don’t we try to scale things back and just look at TV not from the perspective of an industry, but from an audience? Let’s go back to the basics of television.

COMMENTARY BY GARY HOLMES

There Is No ‘Golden Age of Television’

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sick of hearing about the current “Golden Age of Television.” Like many other cultural tropes, the concept contains an element of truth, but the sheer repetition of the phrase has started to sound self-congratulatory, as if we were geniuses for choosing to live through such an epic era.

SALES OFFICE BY DON SEAMAN

Big Events When Television Is Not Yet History

It is the touchstone, large-scale, society-rocking events — the Boston Marathon Bombing, Hurricane Sandy, the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., or even the most potent of all, 9/11 — coverage of each that are all hallmarks of local broadcast television, that are each further reminders that television is indeed where we are engaged, informed and united.

COMMENTARY BY J.R. MAHON

What Papers Must Do To Do Video Right

With video becoming a bigger part of newspapers’ online offerings, the industry needs to learn to work with people from the TV world to create, sustain and survive a multiplatform media environment. “Without people on both sides of the fence working together to disrupt a business that needs an infusion of new media, the print world will continue to struggle with what it is and what it’s going to be,” says J.R. Mahon.

COMMENTARY BY JOHN J. MILLER

Defining ‘Journalist’ Is A Slippery Slope

Last week, a bipartisan majority on the House Judiciary Committee approved House Bill 4770, which seeks to define the word “journalist.” The goal is to distinguish between those who should see accident records immediately (vehicle owners, prosecutors, journalists, etc.) and those who shouldn’t (the vulture-lawyers). This comes dangerously close to the licensing of reporters, is is a rotten idea, and liberal societies like our own abandoned it long ago.

COMMENTARY BY TRICIA SPENCER

Memo To Networks: Don’t Leave Us Hanging

It’s never fun to wake up one morning and hear that a beloved TV series has been canceled. But there’s something especially appalling about a show being axed when the current season of that show has just ended on a cliffhanger. When shows are canceled, fans who have welcomed the show’s characters into their lives are simply kicked to the curb along with the show. It’s insulting, so let’s fix the problem with a “Plus 2” rule.