The future is uncertain for many employees of Anchorage CBS affiliate KTVA, after the television station’s owner, telecommunications company GCI, announced in late July that it’s getting out of the broadcast television business. GCI has sold most of KTVA’s assets to Gray Television, which already owns KTVA’s main local competitor, NBC affiliate KTUU, the top station in the market.
“Their job was to focus on their responsibilities, their journalism, our communities and our clients — and it has paid off,” said Hilton Howell, Gray Television chairman-CEO, adding: “Our [second quarter] business slowed less than we feared and it recovered faster than we’d hoped.”
It says the decrease to $451 million is due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, which it says “significantly impacted our revenues and results for the second quarter and first half of 2020. Nevertheless, despite these macroeconomic challenges, over the first half of this year, we increased our cash on hand by $167 million and repurchased $49 million of our common stock.”
Station groups say they will send fewer correspondents to August’s largely virtualized political conventions and centralize their reporting resources. At the same time, they see local coverage opportunities of the conventions expanding, largely down to use of the remote production technology they’ve already been mastering for months during the pandemic.
TV salespeople have been working from home since March, but the technology necessary for the entire sales workflow to be cloud-based is still developing. Both WideOrbit and Imagine Communications are transitioning existing products to the cloud and developing new cloud-based software.
The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has led stations to remotely create and produce broadcast content like never before. Considerations about a cloud or remote desktop service center on four key factors: Functionality, proximity to a data center, speed and corporate security requirements. Above, the SplashTop application Gray uses affords remote desktop access. The producer is working from home with multiple monitors producing/directing a newscast via a SplashTop connection to computers at the station. Using SplashTop, she is running Ross Remote Overdrive on the large monitor to her left, a multi-viewer video wall on the smaller monitor to her left and ENPS on the laptop in front of her. From her perspective, it feels like those applications are installed locally on her computer/screens at her house.
Lori Bruffett is promoted to lead KBTX Waco-Temple-Bryan, Texas, while Scott Sanders is moved from Columbia, S.C., to head WMBF Myrtle Beach-Florence, S.C.
A TVNewsCheck webinar featuring top engineers from Fox, Tegna and Gray found stations are settling well into their COVID-19-induced remote workflows. Some of those workflows, including IP contribution, cloud-based collaboration and production automation, are likely to stay even after the pandemic subsides. “There’s no going back to what it was before this started,” says Tegna’s Robert Lydick.
GCI subsidiary Denali Media Holdings has announced the sale of its NBC affiliates in southeast Alaska — KATH-LD Juneau and KSCT-LP Sitka — to Gray Television. Denali Media Holdings was established in 2012 and also owns KTVA (CBS) in Anchorage along with three CBS stations in Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan.
Gray Television has filed an amicus brief at the Supreme Court backing the FCC’s appeal of a federal court’s smackdown of its broadcast deregulation decision. Gray told the court it was imperative that it hear the FCC appeal, reverse the Third Circuit, and allow the FCC’s “media modernization” to proceed.
It has new leadership at WAFF Huntsville, Ala.; KKTV Colorado Springs; WDAM Hattiesburg, Miss.; and WTOK Meridian, Miss.
Pat LaPlatney, Co-CEO of Gray Television, says there’s “no question” it will be a hard quarter and year ahead for ad sales, but there are signs of hope in new and returning advertisers, along with new categories, later this spring.
The coronavirus pandemic forced television news operations to produce almost entirely from producers’ and anchors’ homes. During a TVNewsCheck Working Lunch Webinar, set for May 28 at 1 p.m. ET, leading television engineering and operations executives will talk about what they’ve learned while facilitating this massive shift in workflow and the long-term changes likely to flow from it. Above, l-r: Speakers Richard Friedel, Fox Television Stations; Clint Moore, Gray Television; and Robert Lydick, Tegna Media.
After reporting local advertising down 6% in the first quarter, with the COVID plunge hitting in March, Gray is not offering formal guidance for the current quarter. However, CFO Jim Ryan told analysts that as states begin to lift restrictions, business should improve.
The increase to $515 million is due to higher retrans and political advertising money. It says the effects of the coronavirus has resulted in “reduction in demand for advertising across our television stations and digital platforms [and] a very significant reduction in demand in the market for the video production of sporting and other events by our production companies.”
Coronavirus-necessitated remote workflows have spun up quickly and reliably to allow TV stations to keep broadcasting during the pandemic. There’s reason to believe they’ll stick around after the crisis subsides. Above: Avid Edit On Demand provides a full virtual production environment in the cloud, including Media Composer software and Avid NEXIS storage. (Source: Avid)
The now virtual annual meeting will be held on Wednesday, May 6, at 11:30 a.m. ET. Shareholders of record at the close of business on March 9 are eligible to attend, participate in and vote.
CEO Hilton Howell: “It is now time for Gray to improve its management structure to better reflect the company that we have become and better enable our stations and businesses to serve their viewers and customers. We are thrilled to promote several excellent individuals who have made significant and effective contributions to our success and who will be critical to the continued growth of Gray Television for the long-term.”
Gray Television has launched a new campaign to promote essential local businesses that remain open for customers in the midst of state and local restrictions. About four dozen of Gray’s stations have launched their own interactive, online local business directories in the past two weeks featuring approximately 4,600 companies who collectively employ many thousands of […]
CEO Hilton Howell tells employees: “We do not believe that we will need to furlough employees; lay off employees; reduce hourly or salary compensation levels; nor suspend, delay or reduce contributions to employees’ 401(k)s.”
Gray Television is launching a late night newscast focusing on the coronavirus pandemic, with Greta Van Susteren and Lee Zurik hosting. Full Court Press Now will launch on Monday across Gray’s stations in 93 markets. The show will draw on reporting from Gray’s newsrooms in local markets.
Gray’s InvestigateTV brings the pandemic story home, creating an impressive tool — an interactive COVID-19 Tracker that collects positive test results in every single county in the United States, updates the data every day, and makes the information easily accessible. Just mouse over or search the map, find your county, and you can see how many cases per capita have cropped up there.
The masks will be available for free to all Gray employees, but the company wants the first delivery of cloth masks reserved for those full-time and part-time employees who continue to work in a Gray facility or out in the field.
The station group promotes Sacha Purciful and Robby Thomas to oversee KSLA Shreveport, La., and WTVY-WRGX Dothan, Ala., respectively.
Gray Television has withdrawn its offer to acquire larger peer Tegna because of concerns about the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on U.S. regional TV station operators, people familiar with the matter said. Gray had offered to buy Tegna for about $8.5 billion, including debt, Reuters reported earlier this month. After Gray’s stock tumbled on the news and concerns about the coronavirus pandemic’s financial impact became widespread, the Atlanta-based company decided this was not the time to pursue the transformative acquisition, one of the sources said.
The race to acquire TV station owner Tegna Inc. hinges not just on the price suitors are willing to pay, but also on how much they may give up in terms of assets to win regulatory approval, people familiar with the matter said. All three bidders own TV stations that regulators would require to be divested because of the potential overlap, the sources added.
Syncbak, a platform for live local OTT, on Friday announced it will stream long-time station partner KTUU Anchorage’s coverage of the Iditarod Sled Dog race on its streaming platform, SBTV. This marks the third consecutive year that Gray Television’s NBC affiliate KTUU has offered out-of-market audiences across the nation an exclusive opportunity to view the […]
Gray Television has made an offer to acquire larger peer Tegna Inc for approximately $8.5 billion, including debt, people familiar with the matter said on Friday. A successful bid by Gray would significantly expand its footprint in several TV markets. It underscores the pressure Gray and other companies in the TV station industry are under to gain scale and more pricing power with advertisers and the major networks.
“We are bullish about political advertising revenue prospects for 2020 and are off to a fine start this year,” Hilton Howell told analysts today. Gray is increasing its political guidance for 2020 to $250 million-$275 million, well ahead of the company’s record of $235 million in 2018. It also reported sequential improvement in auto advertising for 4Q and strength in the legal, medical and financial ad categories.
The increase to $554 million is boosted by retrans gains and “significantly” higher-than-expected political ad money.
Gray will acquire a minority ownership interest in Tegna’s Premion and resell Premion in all of Gray’s 93 television markets.
The purchase of WLNM-LD Lansing, Mich., by Gray Television tops the latest list of TV station transactions submitted to the FCC for its approval, according to BIA Advisory Services.
Local broadcasters are making headway getting advertisers on board with their nascent OTT platforms, drawn by OTT’s targetability and sponsored content opportunities. However, obstacles still abound from finding a common sales language for the platform to a lack of overall standards and major issues with the ad stack. Above: KSL Salt Lake City put together a six-part series called Ski Lessons with Andy Phillips, who is a local Olympian skier. The series was sponsored by car dealers along with a ski resort and Ski Utah. (Source: KSL)
After years on cable news, Greta Van Susteren is now on broadcast with her Gray Television weekly half-hour Full Court Press. She talks about its commitment to real political balance and how its grounding in broadcasting rather than cable just might give her a leg up when the scramble for interviews begins in earnest in Iowa and in the campaigns beyond.
The station group’s SVP of local media, Brad Streit, is retiring and will be succeeded by WVUE GM Tim Ingram.
The group owner is now using Comscore’s local TV currency exclusively in 83 of its 93 markets.
Next week’s CES in Las Vegas will once again take over the Strip with a sprawling, frenetic glimpse into tomorrow’s consumer technology. This time, NextGen TV will make its show floor debut, and hopes are high consumers will notice.
The programming will include original content produced locally by Gray’s WKYT Lexington, Ky.; WDTV-WVFX Clarksburg, W. Va.; WSAW Wausau, Wis.; WMTV Madison, Wis.; and KCRG Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The offerings will include Gray Television’s first direct-to-OTT broadcast.
As television news broadcasters move to expand their reach into web, mobile and OTT platforms, they are adopting a number of tools and strategies including more automation, better collaboration tools and, in some cases, internal software development. L-r: Gray’s Mike Fass, Avid’s Ray Thompson, Fox’s Emily Stone and ABC’s Fabian Westerwelle. (Photo: Wendy Moger-Bross)