iPod: TV’s Odyssey: For Stations, It’s ‘Our’ Potential

Oct 9, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Local television stations’ viewers are embracing-make that bearhugging-an arsenal of digital technologies to find or to receive content when, where and how they want it.

A year after Disney ruffled the feathers of ABC affiliates by surprising them with the deal that would make previously exclusive ABC programming available on Apple’s iTunes store, affiliates speak less in terms of “yours” and “mine” and more of “ours” when it comes to distribution of local and networks content.

With that network-stations breach healing over, executives of major station groups agree: There is revenue to be generated by delivering programs on-demand, on download and on delivery. The only questions are how much and how far down the road. Advertisers increasingly expect stations to be in this market, where they can precisely target local viewers.

“I think it’s hard for anybody to predict what’s ultimately going to be successful. But we’ve got a year’s experience now,” Hearst-Argyle Television Executive VP Terry Mackin said. “You can look at the traffic on these downloads. I think it will produce revenue because video is in high demand.”

Hearst-Argyle reported nearly $6.6 million in digital media revenues last quarter, 3.4 percent of the $194 million in sales the company posted. That pattern, where digital revenue represents a small but expanding proportion of total sales, is echoed across the industry.

Digital media revenue “is relatively small compared to the major piece of our business, which is broadcasting, but it’s growing at a tremendous rate, where the base business is not growing,” said NBC Universal Television Stations President Jay Ireland, who characterized the trajectory as “strong double-digit growth annually.”

The new media demand new content, forcing stations to adapt.

“We’re going to have to produce creative in a different way, probably in a shorter form, in order to be effective in that world,” said Roger Ogden, senior VP of design, innovation and strategy for Gannett. “You don’t have quite the same captive audience that you have when people are watching a linear television show.”