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.”