Benedeks Enter TV Station Web Site Biz

Aug 18, 2003  •  Post A Comment

In the world of broadcasting, the Benedek name continues to have currency, particularly in the area of station Web sites.
Though the family sold its 15 television stations to Gray Television last year for $500 million, the Benedeks continue to operate in broadcasting circles, using some of the proceeds from that sale to create Benedek Investment Group, an investment fund that originates loans to broadcasters and helps incubate new businesses.
One such business is Broadcast Interactive Media, a company that builds Web sites for TV and radio stations. Less than a year old, the New York-based start-up is girding to do battle with two more-established players that have strong ties to several station groups: Internet Broadcasting Systems, which has ties to NBC and Hearst-Argyle Television; and WorldNow, which handles Web duties for 143 TV stations nationwide.
But the company is ready, said Stephen Benedek, managing director of Benedek Investment Group, a board member of Broadcast Interactive Media and a former executive at Benedek Broadcasting. “We want to do what broadcasters want and be totally versatile,” he said. “We do not want to take away their identity.”
At the heart of Broadcast Interactive’s strategy is building and maintaining Web sites that retain unique looks for their clients and allow them to capture all of the revenue generated by the sites-all with an eye toward serving the station. The company also provides Web hosting and editorial services for customers, where Broadcast Interactive employees will write, edit and post stories on stations’ Web sites, saving stations the trouble of having to hire a webmaster and build teams to perform those functions.
So far, 20 TV and radio stations in small and midsize markets have tapped the company to put together their Web sites, including most recently two Banks Broadcasting stations, WB affiliate KWCV-TV in Wichita, Kan., and UPN affiliate KNIN-TV in Boise, Idaho.
In addition to Mr. Benedek, the company’s board of directors includes K. James Yager, former president and chief operating officer of Benedek Broadcasting; Jacob Barker, founder of media investment banking firm Barker Capital; and Timur Yarnall, a co-founder of Web services provider Clickability, who is now president of Broadcast Interactive.
The goal of the company is to “keep costs low [for stations] while providing scale and maintaining localism,” Mr. Yarnall said. “We have the power to create solutions, asking customers, `What do you want to accomplish?’ and then tailoring the solution to better meet the outlet’s needs.”
Mr. Yarnall noted that while other Web site builders use a national branding approach, Broadcast Interactive will focus on luring local advertisers that wouldn’t otherwise do business with local TV stations. An example is the company’s Ask the Experts service, which features advice on specific topics and is sponsored by businesses related to those subject areas. Another example is a local obituary section, wedding announcements and viewer participation contests tied to popular series such as “American Idol” or “Survivor.”
“It’s a nontraditional approach to TV,” he said, adding that he’d like to double or triple the number of stations using Broadcast Interactive’s services within a year.
For smaller-market TV stations such as Eagle Creek Broadcasting-owned KZTV in Corpus Christi, Texas, the services that Broadcast Interactive offers open up a new revenue stream for the CBS affiliate.
“A Web site is an extension of the station’s personality,” said Dennis Thatcher, general sales manager at the station. “It allows people to learn things, and it facilitates different types of advertising.”
Indeed, because CBS’s programming leaves little shelf space for the station, Mr. Thatcher said he looks to the Web site as a way to generate a secondary stream of revenue.
So far, the strategy is working. KZTV’s Ask the Experts venture has generated $200,000 in revenue since the Broadcast Interactive Web site launched earlier this year, said Dale Remy, general manager for the station.