Stations Urged to Stay Credible In a Changing Landscape

Jan 16, 2007  •  Post A Comment

The local TV station business is still a growth business and will remain so as long as stations take steps to control their own destiny. That was the consensus of a group of top station executives at the NATPE convention today.

Speaking on a panel entitled “Stations Fight Back” moderated by TelevisionWeek Managing Editor Melissa Grego, Bill Peterson, senior VP of the E.W. Scripps Co.’s television station group, said that while news media has labeled local TV stations as “old media,” the robust spending on political advertising last year was a “third-party endorsement” of the stations’ continued value. “It is the best medium to build brand and distribute a broad message,” he said. “We should stop apologizing.”

Mr. Peterson also said local stations enjoy credibility in their communities that many Internet sources of local information lack. He said that it is to stations’ advantage to remain local and credible in the face of the changing media landscape.

CBS Television Stations President Tom Kane said that while the local station business has changed in recent years, it retains a good advertising model, adding that synergy between stations and their Web sites and other distribution platforms is bringing in new streams of revenue. “You want to distribute across platforms and get paid for it,” he said.

Mr. Kane also pointed to retransmission revenue as a potential growth area for stations, anticipating that those deals charging for signal carriage would be worked out with cable operators in the near future.

Summing up the medium’s greatest strength as an ad vehicle, Mr. Kane said, “TV is a habit.”

Tribune Broadcasting President and CEO John Reardon, who described local stations as a “megaphone in the community,” said that while station Web sites are generating advertising revenue, they still had “a long way to go.” But he said the station business in general is healthy. “Television is $72 billion industry, and 35 percent of it is spot,” he said, pointing to local TV’s slice of the pie.

NBC Universal Television Stations Senior VP of News and Programming Steve Schwaid, speaking about the NBC stations’ experiment with their own programming, “iVillage,” said, “With syndication, you never owned the property. We wanted to control our own destiny.” He said that the stations’ future is “all about local content, sharing content and maximizing the resources you have available.” His advice to stations: “Take the risks, control the platforms, put it out there.”

Ibra Morales, president of the NBC/Telemundo Networks Group’s Telemundo Group, said that while Hispanic viewers are not as active on the Internet as some other groups, his stations are learning to drive viewers back and forth between the TV screen and the station Web sites. Reinforcing Mr. Schwaid’s stance, he noted that his stations own 95 percent of their programming. “Owning your destiny is the way of the future,” he said.

(Editor: Fees)