Back in the 1960s, WLBT in Jackson, Miss., had its license revoked after it actively promoted segregation, encouraged viewers to defy the government, break the law and mistreat their fellow human beings. Today, WLBT is an example of how to do race relations right, reflecting the needs, interests and employee makeup of a largely African American community. Its current owner, Gray Television, has just created the Gray Media Training Center to develop fully trained, highly qualified minority graduates for Gray’s stations in 113 markets.
Stagnant regulations and a constricting economy may force the number of TV stations producing news to narrow. Ironically, that could also lead to an increase — and improvement — of news.
Today’s news consumers are smart. They know opinion, preaching and lectures when they see them, including on our own networks. If we want to retain their trust, we must never forget that viewers see forming an opinion as their prerogative, not ours.
The frustrations of a multimedia journalist over the job’s low pay and difficult working conditions published last week by TVNewsCheck rings true with many accounts I’ve heard across the country. The issue is reaching a tipping point that station owners would do well to heed.
The recent upfronts saw networks turning on a dime from their obsession with acquiring subscribers for their streamers to their former adoration of advertising. Whether there’s enough ad revenue to support this industry-wide pivot is another story.
Networks are shortsightedly alienating their affiliate partners with their fixation on their streaming platforms. In so doing, they’re ignoring local brand value, which can carry them over the chasm between hit programs.
The nascent streamer’s abrupt end has roots in the larger failure of CNN’s brand promise, which was squandered by a belated leftward turn at the cable network.
Virtual Multichannel Video Programming Distributors (vMVPDs) operate in the loophole of the internet, free from having to honor network exclusivity agreements and able to negotiate directly with ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox, thus cutting local affiliates off at the knees. Their regulation needs to be at the top of the FCC’s agenda or quality local news is in peril.
Being a GM is a complex job that requires balancing many competing interests to reach a few common goals. For those who seek it, the best groundwork is laid by learning every role at the station.
Hank Price: Multimedia journalism was born out of financial considerations, and now that MMJs are widespread, TV news owners and management have an obligation to better ensure their safety. It’s time for news directors to step up at the station level.
TV’s very currency is in crisis, fueled by deepening questions of Nielsen’s accuracy. As the industry shifts its focus toward attribution, the company needs to pull itself out of its insular shell if it wants to create the future advertising currency and secure its own future.
When SEC football moves from CBS to ABC in the fall of 2024, CBS affiliates across the conference will lose the single most advertiser-friendly venue in their arsenals. Millions of dollars will move en masse to ABC affiliates, turning station budgets and revenue audits upside down. The halo CBS affiliates have enjoyed will move right along with those dollars.
Stations bringing up the rear in their local markets have nothing to lose by shaking off their conventional thinking and introducing some radical changes to their news content. Here are a few ideas on how to kick that off.
Local television is an industry that runs on energy, and it has a short circuit. Top leadership needs to confront the burnout issue behind it right now.
The death of local news story much ballyhooed in journalism circles says more about the arrogance of local newspapers than the industry’s actual state. But TV stations need to heed an important lesson in the narrative and cast themselves as trusted local partners, not authoritative gatekeepers of information.
Under well-deserved pressure from the Video Advertising Bureau and the Media Rating Council — not to mention Discovery’s David Zaslav — Nielsen is facing a potentially existential moment. It would do well not to revert to its usual defensive crouch and, instead, engage in a straightforward and transparent dialogue with its clients.
NBC’s Tokyo Olympics are shaping up to be an echo of the 1998 Nagano disaster at CBS, but aberrations aside, the Games will remain sports’ gold standard.
There’s a welcome place for reasonable regulation of political ads, but the current rules are so cumbersome and fraught with traps that even the most minor mistakes invite ready fines and embarrassment. Hopefully, acting FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel’s forthcoming changes will address that, but there’s reason for skepticism.
Millennial employees can present generational challenges to older industry leaders, but great leadership transcends these differences, a trait especially needed as the industry navigates enormous change.
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.
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.
Broadcasters would welcome reformation of the outdated newspaper-TV crossownership rule, but the Supreme Court’s decision to hear an appeal of the Third Circuit decision doesn’t solve all the industry’s COVID-induced woes. The FCC still needs to eliminate the Top 4 rule and online video distributors need to be classified as MVPDs.
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.
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.
If there ever was doubt employees are our strongest assets, that should be gone. Engineers, to cite only one example, have repurposed, reworked and scrounged everything from laptops to boom mikes. And that same creativity and positive attitude has been on display in every other department at TV operations.
General managers are showing their true quality in these extraordinary times, putting public service and concern for their staffs above all other considerations.
Six months after the merger of two Top Four non-failing stations under Gray ownership, increased news offerings and wider signal coverage are among the results.
You cannot be blamed at first glance for thinking the new AT&T TV is yet another OTT service. Actually, it is something else entirely; more akin to DirecTV than cable light. When one looks at the details and long-term pricing, it becomes easy to see AT&T TV is intended to replace DirecTV.
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.
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.
Hank Price: “Starting in July, Peacock premium subscribers will be able to watch The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and Late Night with Seth Meyers live, hours before they air in their regular slots on NBC affiliates. Instead of the fresh product NBC stations now carry after their late newscasts, they will instead be airing reruns of shows that have already aired on Peacock. This is an outrageous breach of trust between Comcast/NBC Universal and the NBC affiliate body.”