John Oliver exposed an embarrassing practice of using local news personnel to shill products on air. Station groups that participate are playing a dangerous game with viewers’ trust in the process.
This week’s announcement of a mega-merger between AT&T’s WarnerMedia and Discovery must still pass muster with consumers who may not be willing to pay a premium fee for much of what they watch.
The Video Advertising Bureau accuses Nielsen of a “systematic undercounting” of TV program viewership since last March. Nielsen needs to respond to the accusation with more than a white paper.
Nexstar’s nascent NewsNation cable network has been roiled with high-level departures and “plummeting morale amid dismal ratings,” as summarized by one media writer. It is certainly at a pivotal juncture, and whether it can deliver on the unique, apolitical content it promised will be key to its survival.
Last week’s winter storms were a reminder that audiences, enamored of streaming though they might be, still tune in to live TV coverage as essential viewing. Networks would do well to take that into account and move forward with integrated distribution strategies that include their legacy station partners.
Television stations should take a cue from the NAB, whose commitment to holding an in-person conference in October offers a light at the end of COVID’s long, dark tunnel.
The virtual, but still vital, NATPE that took place this week occasions a look back to its origins from early days of hotel suites to a carnival-like heyday packed with stars.
There are no winners on the local front when it comes to station blackouts, but stations can maintain goodwill by answering irate viewers’ calls, keeping clients informed and calling viewers when carriage is restored.
A down year is a good time to be a hero since corporate expectations are low and any successes are magnified. But GMs need to face the situation head on, have the guts to make tough operating decisions and hold the line on sales rates, even when there’s pressure to cut them.
A political windfall benefited station groups after COVID’s ravages, and there’s every reason to see political remaining healthy for many cycles to come. The reason? Leading local newscasts still have a close and coveted relationship with their loyal viewers.
AT&T never had a clear plan to integrate DirecTV into its overall strategy, and instead piddled away its brand and showed an utter failure of leadership in the process.
There’s little chance that either Ellen DeGeneres or Warner Bros. will walk away from a staple of daytime TV that has flourished for almost two decades. Look for a carefully-orchestrated mea culpa and a triumphant return — she’s too good an actress for any other outcome.
Everyone who is anyone is now in the streaming business, including the traditional over-the-air networks. Late entrant NBC was so eager for a piece of the pie it was willing to anger its affiliate body by moving some first plays to Peacock. This has damaged an already fragile relationship. Brand is what strong local television stations do best. Whatever the future may bring, their unique relationship with local audiences is an advantage no other form or media can claim.
Hank Price: One is struck by how important leadership is during these times. Group heads set the tone and define the values of their companies, but only local leaders set the vision for their stations. No company, no matter how good, can overcome visionless local leadership.
Some trends in local television are making themselves clear as the country slowly reopens, among them a growing pressure to consolidate, a need to find new revenue streams and greater workplace portability.
Station business managers are critical to the organization’s success. Sometimes overlooked, they’re a GM’s partner in running the station and essential to realizing its strategic plan.
During the run-up to elections, stations are inundated with requests for political ads during newscasts and stations are happy to oblige. However, for news directors that can mean less time in the broadcasts for news. Hard decisions have to be made such as, “Do we even have time for sports tonight?” News director “victimhood” is often on display. Rather than just acting like a victim, here are some things that might make life a little more bearable.
Today’s consumer does not have an unlimited financial appetite for new streaming services. Every time a new OTT service is selected, the consumer will feel pressure to drop something else. As competition increases, one must ask what all this means to retransmission consent.
Harassment by unhinged viewers, especially the threat of unwanted sexual attention, is a problem for women appearing on television across the country. We can’t protect our staffs from everything, but we’ve seen this particular problem too many times to not recognize it and take action. Nothing less is acceptable.
With coverage of the Trump impeachment pretty much an overwhelming information dump, some may question why broadcast TV should bother, especially given the loss of ad revenue that results. It is during times like this that we must remember why local over-the-air television is fundamentally different from cable, OTT and all the rest. We are not just businesses. We are stewards of the public trust, operating on the public airways. Our service is free to anyone with an antenna. If viewers choose to pay to watch us on satellite, cable or OTT, then great, but no one is required to do that.
My first thought when seeing Viacom’s announcement that William S. Paley’s architectural masterpiece Black Rock will be put on the market was horror. But then I checked. Black Rock is on the National Register of Historic Places, so I, for one, breathed a sigh of relief.
Hank Price: “Every local general manager and news director is well aware of their need to constantly build and maintain viewer trust. Trust is not optional. To lose it is to go out of business.”
Netflix’s major Q2 shortfall on new subscribers signals that OTT services are beginning to learn what broadcasters have long known: not everything will be a hit, and even the best programming has a shelf life.
Television has a bright future if it can adapt to the times and focus on its brand, its consumers and the technology its viewers have chosen, says a veteran industry executive. “The brand is not television,” Hank Price said. “Television is an extension of the brand. We are not in the television business but in the local information business. That is why people are watching us.”
The head of Hearst Television’s NBC affiliate in Birmingham, Ala., caps a nearly five-decade broadcasting career, including 18 years with Hearst.
Hank Price, GM of WXII Winston-Salem, N.C.: “Who is in the best position to create this radical future of journalism? Who will create tomorrow’s “trusted choice?” Will it be major newspapers and leading television stations or two kids in a garage? The answer to that question is up to you and me. Either way, we will get what we deserve.”
In response to last week’s commentary by Ed Rabel critical of local TV news, the president-GM of WXII Greensboro/Winston-Salem, N.C., rebuts: “We live in a new golden age of over-the-air television. Leading stations with strong newscasts find themselves offering more services to more people than ever before.”