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Marianne Paskowski



WNBC-TV’s All-News Channel Could Bomb

May 9, 2008 10:00 AM

When I first heard that the NBC Universal owned-and-operated station WNBC-TV in New York was launching a 24-hour local news channel this fall, I thought it was a great idea.

Now I’m having second thoughts. For starters, the new cable channel might maim the local broadcast news, which is already hurting big time.

And let’s get real. WNBC is more than a decade late in getting into the hyper-news game.

For years Time Warner Cable has won big audiences for its NY1 24-hour local news service. It’s an excellent service, especially for straphangers who want to learn which subways are down.

In outlying suburban communities in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, Cablevision Systems has pretty much cornered the local news arena with its popular News 12 channel. Actually it has three local channels devoted to weather, traffic and news. It works just fine.

Here is one upside: Viewers in other areas of New Jersey that have Comcast Cable as their provider are about the only viewers who will benefit, because the nation’s largest MSO doesn’t provide a hyper-local news service for that market.

And here’s another sliver of hope. Maybe the NBC all-news channel will get some ratings with viewers who have satellite TV service, or Verizon’s FiOS.

But that’s about the extent of the upswing I see for this new offering from NBCU.

Am I missing something here?

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Comments (25)

Arthur :

>

Well, yes. But I'll bet you know it. For one thing, it's unlikely that this 24-hour news "channel" which amounts to cut-ins, will cannibalize local news ratings any more than do the cut-ins during the TODAY Show.

Secondly, if the service expands, it could become a significant source of additional revenue, more akin to the traditional dollars than the "digital pennies" that justifiably worry Jeff Zucker

Finally, this is a relatively painless (and low-cost) way for the station to prepare to launch other news platforms, including mobile video in the months and years ahead.

I can remember when the former Group W Stations did exactly this same thing as part of the short-lived Satellite News Channels venture with ABC News. This is 25-year-old idea whose time finally may have come.

Marianne :

Arthur,

News is never cheap, although it seems to be devalued in the new climate.

Where things could get interesting is if the hype news effort spreads beyond New York to areas where it might not face such stiff competition.

Thanks Arthur, and we'll see if this new endeavor has legs.

Marianne

Jeff Mulligan:

Marinne --

A new revenue stream for not much more investment in their news operations sounds like a smart gamble. Chances are, the "24-hour" will likely be something like an hour loop updated three times a day by a staff that they've been paying for already.

Jeff

Marianne :

Jeff,

I disagree, especially that this is taking place in the city that never sleeps, New York. TW's Channel One reporters are on everything: pipe explosions, subway floods, delays at Grand Central, City Hall, you name it, they are there.

Thanks for the post,
Marianne

Robert Keil:

Don't they have a 24 hr. news channel anyway -- called MSNBC?

Rick Lavon:

Honestly, what's the point?

People who are working get their news from the internet or radio.
In the evening when they get home there is CNN, MSNBC, Fox (ugh)
and CNBC for business. And that's just for news junkies. You have to contend with already diminished viewership. And then there's the News 12 thing. This is an unneeded ingredient in an already overseasoned pot of news.

Andy S.:

WNBC is already running two local channels on digital cable: a 24-hour weather channel and a channel running "service" type programming along with public affairs shows. Is this new channel going to be in addition to those, or are they taking these already-existing channels and putting them together, with straight news content added?

I would also note that WABC is running all-news on a digital channel, though I gather they are re-airing stuff from Eyewitness News. Thus it seems evident that someone thinks there's a market for it.

Marianne :

Richard,

Yes, there's MSNBC, but hyperlocalism here means just New York. Like are the choo-choos running on time at Grand Central.

Thanks for your post,
Marianne

Marianne :

Rick,
Well said, you're forgetting Time Warner's Channel One that blankets the Big Apple.

Thanks for your post,
Marianne

Marianne :

Andy,
NBC didn't say what it was doing with the two existing diginets you're referring to. That's a question for Zucker. I'm sure you have his ear:}

I know longer live in the New York DMA, so I can't see any of this stuff, first hand. I just think it's a waste of resources for NBC. The Peacock is already laying off TV reporters. Go figure, I don't get it.

TGIF
Marianne

Floyd Z.:

At first blush I was pretty excited at the prospects for this. However, when reading that no new staff will be hired and existing personnel will be shuffled around to make this happen, I've got to wonder what the consumer benefit is.

Were this a video version of news radio (granted New York has two successful and profitable all-news operations, both owned by CBS Radio), I would be enthusiastic. Knowing that NBC already has a high cost of doing business (rents, union contracts / wages, etc.) I can't help but think that this is not only a bunch of hoopla that will fall flat, but be the beginning of the end for what was once New York's premiere TV news operation, since existing, dedicated resources will be off-loaded to this project.

Marianne :

Floyd,

Do you know Teresa Martin? I love both 1010 and 880, the CBS owned NY AM radio stations I can even get out here on Cape Cod

Love to listen especially when I'm driving back to New York for a rained out weekend in New York, like tomorrow for Mother's Day.

I have strong doubts about this NBC hyper news digi-channel. If I remember a bunch of news people were just dumped at WNBC-TV.

It's like journalism is getting devalued, worse so than the U.S. dollar.

Thanks for your post,
Marianne

eric:

what is so special about this announcement??? just more of the same does every broadcaster have to have a 24hour weather channel, and a 24 hour news channel??? are the incremental ad dollars really there? wnbc has done some original things under frank comerford like miked up, reel talk, lx.tv, etc. but a news 'wheel' of rehashed repeats of the days news will be lost in the pack.
yes you have to spend money to make money, but cant broadcasters be more innovative and creative,cost-efficiently at least????

Marianne :

Eric,

What's special about this announcement is that it's a day late and a dollar short.

I think you agree with me, thanks for the post,
Marianne

Ian:

Marianne,

Living in Brooklyn, I get NY1 and News 12, both owned by the cable company and constantly bragging that they are not available on satellite or, as they like to call is "phone company TV". The WNBC news channel may be successful for that reason.

The real question is will they go as local as NY1 and News 12. Growing up in Westchester, I always was shocked about how much of the local news was about New Jersey. What I like about News 12 is that they can use the same expensive graphics and music package for each of their hyper-local operations. Will WNBC create individual feeds for NYC, Westchester, NJ, CT, Florida (natural extension of NY, of course), etc?

I assume it will be just repackaged News 4 New York stories, and nothing like the brilliant (but way too short) In Transit on NY1.

Plus, will they let their anchors moonlight as game show hosts on VH1? When World Series of Pop Culture is on, its like Pat Kiernan is subliminaly telling me to watch him the next morning...

Let's have coffee soon.

--Ian

Marianne :

Ian,

I was in New Jersey over the weekend, watching TV in a hotel. The provider was obviously Comcast but they obviously had a deal with Cablevision to carry Cablevision's News 12, which was a feed about New Jersey!

When I lived in Westchester, Cablevision turf, I loved the Westchester slant of News 12.

Will WNBC be that hyper local? I think they need to be considering their tri-state footprint.

Thanks for the post,
Marianne

It's like going to the old Automat...Remember? You walk in and face the wall of food behind glass doors and then your eye hits some tasty tid bit and you're guided to that shiny item behind the glass that caused the spark that went off in your subconscious...you can't help yourself...Do you want pie or a ham sandwich? Do you want NY 1, 12, FOX, CNN, digital this or digital that?

Good luck. Today, I'm having pie. I understand the commercial drive for an entity to have a slot on every possible form of media...but someday the ability to pay will determine who is around and who is not.

Regurgitation will not work. Uniqueness, original material and approach will say who survives.
Peter Bright

Marianne :

Hi Peter,

I used to work near the last remaining Automat on 42nd Street, only went in once, for the novelty of it. The food was terrible, but the experience fun.

So that's a long way of saying people with sample the hyper local WNBC-TV news channel, but it better be good, or they'll never return.

Thanks for the apt analogy,
Marianne

Victor Livingston:

Hi Marianne... long time gone. Nice to discover your col. today. Hi to the other half, how's he doing?

I do take a contrarian view on the NBC O&O plan for 24-hour DTV news channels in all major markets. I think it's going to work big. Here's why: Folks "our" age, boomers, are tied of paying $50-70 per mo. for cable when they watch mostly the nets, cable news, and maybe some History, A&E, Bravo on occasion. With the economy in the tank, people are looking for reasons to cut back. Pay channels are history in our house. I'm down near Trenton, in PA. With rabbit ears I can get the major DTVs from Philly. Perfect picture -- MUCH better than Comcast cable's analog provides (some DTV interference, but I think that's jamming and it will stop as soon as the FCC tracks the source).

If I put a roof antenna up, I could pull in NYC stations. With an all-newser from WNBC (which I'm sure will recycle lots of MSNBC and local news stuff), I'd have the incentive to invest in a rooftop antenna and maybe even dump cable. The all-news channels on cable are about the only thing making me stick. I can rent movies and with the extra PBS DTV channels, there's enough culture. (Of course, my wife may have other ideas.) But expanded basic at $50+ is just too much for the market to bear.)

I predict a resurgence in the outdoor antenna biz. Somebody's going to come along and open a chain of "Free HD Antenna Co." outlets. I also think that the NFL or some other entity may partner with a station group and offer an all-sports DTV subchannel. If that happens, DTV will really pose a threat to cable. DTV is basically a more limited form of wireless cable. Many people still think they need cable to get any form of HDTV. When they realize the nets are pumping out "free HD," cable's going to start to churn. It's already happening; Comcast lost 57,000 subs last quarter. Broadcast is back, thanks to DTV, that's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Just for fun, check out , the Delaware page. Best wishes.

Vic Livingston

ps. My email address has been hijacked recently and I may have to change it soon. So I'll check back here in the site for your response, and I won't be emailing much until I figure out what I need to do...

Marianne :

Hi Victor,
Not sure I follow your train of thought. DTV to means Direct TV. Are you talking about something else. I think so, because you are or were a Comcast subscriber.

And what exactly is the Delaware page, I should check out?

Anyhow, hope you and the family are fine, all's well here in the Red Sox Nation. God, I can't believe I just wrote that. Always a Yankee fan!

Best,
Marianne

Victor Livingston:

Hi Marianne:

DTV as in "digital TV", over-the-air digital broadcasting. The NTIA/ campaign web site is called "DTV2009.gov" and the info web site is called "DTV answers.com" and both sites, as well as the trades and the TV press, often use DTV as the acronym for over the air digital broadcasting, commonly in headlines. I get cable for my HDTV set, but my upstairs set is now getting excellent DTV broadcast signals (most of the time, when there's not interference) with the use of one of those digital to analog converter boxes.

With the multiplicity of over the air digital channels, soon to include all-news, coupled with the excellent picture quality of DTV, I could see cable losing subs "on the margin," like maybe 5-8 percent, within a couple of years of the digital switchover. But I have to believe that cable will counter this by lowering its subscription fees for basic service, and by making sure that even basic subs get a box that passes thru HD signals (since many of the bare-bones basic boxes do not pass thru HD or any true digital signal).

On the Delaware page thing, which got garbled, there is a site called garagehangover dot com which posts stuff about garage bands of the '60s (including one I was in). Thought you'd get a chuckle because the tunes were so bad!

Enjoy the cape!

Marianne :

Hi Victor,
I figured that out the moment I sent my stupid response.

But you might be disappointed with WNBC-TV's new hyper local news. Do you really think you'll get news about your area in Pa?

I don't, think it will be a lot like News One and News 12. Commuters into New York love that stuff, which trains and subways are up and running or not.

I'll check out that website after dinner and a drink, sounds like I'll need one to endure what you describe.

Are you still doing TV News?

TGIF here on the spit of sand, time to go play.

Marianne

Victor Livingston:

Marianne:

I'm betting they'll run a lot of NBC national stuff, maybe even some MSNBC material, to fill up the hours between the commuter info. I wouldn't be surprised if they run some MSNBC shows, if only as a promotional tool for NBCU's primetime cable lineup.

This is no substitute for CNN/MSNBC/Fox, but I do think it's a competitive challenge to cable ("free" HDTV for those with an HDTV set). I am sure that cable will respond smartly (eventually) by lowering the price of basic entry and passing thru HD for must-carries.

I did an antennaweb.com signal search and I was astounded to see how many digital signals are already up in my area, which is halfway between NYC and Philly DMAs.

I had a six-year run as the producer and host of the "Sports Business Report" show on Madison Square Garden Network, after four years as biz reporter for Fox 29 News in Philly. I'm now concentrating on telecommunications/media journalism, kind of a "back to the future" from our days with Titsch (now there's a name I hadn't thought of in years... Titsch, Fitz, Gush, Woody, Drix... all those Biffs, Muffies and Buffies... We did have fun working the media beat in those days).

Well this is a public blog and I'm boring folks so I'll sign off now! Tell your folks at TV Week that I'm "Have Laptop, Will Travel" if the need ever arises. Have a great weekend. (Also wondering if your husband is still working the trades... next time I check in you can let me know.)

Vic Livingston

linda (Sherman) herman:

Hey Marianne,

Forgive me for not offering my comments but a more pressing issue is at hand. I'm trying to reach Vic Livingston. We were classmates in Wilmington and I've lost his contact info. I see he's been pretty vocal on your blog.

Can you help negotiate our contact?

Any help is appreciated.

Thanks! Linda Sherman Herman
yes, that's what married life did to me!

Marianne Paskowski:

Hi Linda,
Victor has only responded to this particular blog. He never left an email and I have no idea how to contact him. Let's hope that by updating this blog, it will catch his eye and he will contact you.I think he's still in the Philly region.

Good luck,
M

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