African-American broadcast network Bounce TV is one year old this week. It is adding affiliates and advertisers for year two. Also, it is preparing to become a Nielsen-rated network before this year is out.
The station group schedules a third season for its America Now newsmagazine and is working with production company My Tupelo Entertainment to create more shows, including two weekday strips. “Our goal is to raise the bar again for our television stations,” says Raycom CEO Paul McTear. “We want to produce content that we know folks will like and come back to. We want to increase our ratings and advertising.”
The 134-year-old media company, led by CEO Rich Boehne (r), is moving away from newspapers to television with the recent purchase of the McGraw-Hill stations. With Brian Lawlor (l), television SVP, leading the charge, the near-term mission is to rebuild the stations’ cash flow margins. At the same time, Scripps has a long-range plan that focuses on investing in homegrown programming to reduce its reliance on syndicated fare; bulking up investigative news efforts; reorganizing and centralizing digital operations; and even sticking its toes in the social gaming pool. And it’s not ruling out buying more stations. “You’d definitely consider Scripps an investor going forward,” says Lawlor.
Ed Fernandez, Sam Rosenwasser and Steve Wasserman get additional group station oversight responsibilities while retaining their GM slots at WXYZ Detroit, WEWS Cleveland and WPTV West Palm Beach, respectively.
E.W. Scripps, Cox Media Group and Raycom Media are betting other stations will want to air its syndicated video clip show, in which five TV news vets riff and report on whatever the producers can find of interest on the Web and elsewhere. The mix of news and entertainment is produced as two back-to-back half-hours, giving stations the option of splitting up the episodes into different time slots or buying the show as a single half-hour.
With its purchase of McGraw-Hill’s stations in Denver, Indianapolis, San Diego and Bakersfield, Scripps is benefiting three constituencies: Itself, the viewers in those markets and the industry at large. Itself and viewers because its plan to boost the new stations’ value stems from investing in news to raise ratings (and ad rates), giving viewers better news options; and the industry because the deal finally sets a price for stations that could get the station trading market rolling again. A lot of potential sellers have been sitting on the sidelines because they don’t know what their stations are worth. Now they do.
Last week’s $212 million purchase of the McGraw-Hill TV group will boost Scripps’ U.S. coverage to 13% and make it the country’s largest owner of ABC affiliates. And it also gives it five low-power Spanish-language stations. Brian Lawlor, Scripps’ SVP of the TV division, says his company made the deal because the new stations are “a really comfortable fit” in terms of culture, geography and size. He talks about the plans to make the most of this new opportunity, the company’s first major station purchase in 20 years.
With the addition of the Scripps outlets that reach 10% of TV homes, the lifestyle channel has boosted its coverage to more than 40%. The channel counts 16 other affiliates: eight ABC-owned, five Belo, two Lilly Broadcasting and one LKK Group.
A few words of caution for those enterprising station groups deciding to produce their own programming rather than buy syndicated fare. Think beyond just news; be merciless — if it doesn’t work, kill it and move on; and stay focused on building a strong, sustainable show for your own markets before even thinking about offering it to stations elsewhere.
Scripps-owned WPTV West Palm Beach, Fla., which has been producing news for Raycom’s WFLX, will now also be responsible for technical, promotional and online operations at the Fox affil.