Media in Transition: The Internet’s Impact on Local TV

 It seems clear.  The future of the newspaper is online – Time reports that media mogul Rupert Murdoch gleefully anticipates the end of newspaper presses and the unions that can accompany them – but, the Internet’s effect on television doesn’t seem that clear.

Surveys show that the local television newscasts still attract the largest news audiences in America.  However,  those audiences have been in steady decline for the past few years.  However, when the TV website audience is added, it helps make up for the TV audience loss. 

WLTZ VP and GM Drew Rhodes (COurtesy: Jim Cathorne, Camera 1)

WLTZ VP and GM Drew Rhodes (Courtesy: Jim Cawthorne, Camera 1)

TV stations are basically facing the same problems as newspapers in getting their websites to produce impressive revenues. WLTZ VP and GM Drew Rhodes puts it this way: ” The  Internet is still somewhat of an experiment for television stations.  Of course we stream video of news stories and you can see a lot of your favorite shows on the Internet.  However, nobody in the television world is making any substantial money purely via Internet.”

WTVM VP and GM Lee Brantley (Courtesy: Jim Cawthorne, Camera 1)

WTVM VP and GM Lee Brantley (Courtesy: Jim Cawthorne, Camera 1)

When I put the same questions about the Internet to WTVM’s VP and GM Lee Brantley, he said,  “A lot of what you ask is competitive and confidential. I will tell you in one month this year we topped a million page views on our website for that month. Revenues are increasing nicely for our website. At the same time our on-air news numbers are steady and have a larger share of news viewing in the market.” He also said, “The Internet has made us a better news organization, able to provide more news though multiple mediums.”

There are other factors involved with the change of television stations.  The switch from analogue to digital has added side bans, which, in effect are additional channels. Stations use them for specialized programming, such as all-weather channels. Still, the main source of revenue is from the established TV channels.  

What about the future?

Lee Brantley:  “The strong news stations will be better positioned for a brighter future. We can offer multiple channels and more local news than any other source. ”

Drew Rhodes:  ” I think the future for television stations is bright.  I think you will see more consolidation as the years go along.  Look at radio world and its consolidation over the last few years.  The re-transmission consent fees have changed the way television stations make money.  Most analysts project they will continue to grow for years.  I think the future lies with ‘local’ television.  Who can do ‘local’ better?  That station or group of stations will be the winner.  I’m not just talking about news either.  I think we are going to see a resurgence of locally produced shows like we did when television was in its infancy.”

Now that could be fun. It conjures up images of children’s shows like WTVM’s “Miss Pasty’s Playhouse, ” with Patsy Avery,  and WRBL’s “Bob Brandy Show,”  and “Colonel Chick,”  and home shows like “Rozell,” with the late Rozell Fabiani, and weatherman icon Doug Wallace,  and the not-late Don Nahley.  TV commentator, former newsman, and nightclub owner Al Fleming and I joined Don at lunch yesterday to celebrate his birthday.  How old is he?  And Al? And me? Stay tuned.

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2 Responses to “Media in Transition: The Internet’s Impact on Local TV”

  1. Stepen King Says:

    What a MUG SHOT!

  2. Rick Says:

    There are forces, such as social networking (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc.), on the Internet that could dis-intermediate local television. The newspapers slept while Craigslist emerged. Rather than recognize the potential of the new medium, they clung to their draconian listing-based revenue models until it was too late. A similar thing could very well happen to local network television. The barrier to entry in broadcasting used to be huge. Now any schmo with a video camera or cell phone can make content available. These are disruptive technologies.

    Content is king. They will have to compete using meaningful content that nobody else can deliver. Me personally, I hardly ever watch local television new anymore. I don’t see a meaningful presentation of facts. I see sensationalism. The bigger, the dirtier the better. I don’t have a use for that. How about local politics? Only during elections do we even get soundbites. Never any intelligent presentation of the facts. It is all dumbed down to the lowest common denominator.

    If I were in local television news, I’d be very worried right now.

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