What Will Cabler's Ownership OF NBC Mean For Local Affiliates?

NBC Universal President/CEO Jeff Zucker expects a Comcast-NBC Universal-General Electric deal by Thanksgiving. That's the day someone usually delivers a turkey.


This columnist believes NBC's desire to get much better at producing programming is in line with Comcast's major desire to secure high-quality video content in the future.

But NBC's local affiliates are also part of the deal. This will mean Comcast will now have a closer association with TV stations, and not just in business partnerships like retransmission deals.

One of the reasons broadcast networks still get bigger ratings than cable networks is what local stations bring to the party. For years, local stations have been key promotion partners for their networks -- providing much more, according to some executives, than local cable affiliates bring to their respective cable networks.



In a new digital world, will Comcast look to NBC stations to promote the NBC network as well as Comcast's own cable networks or other cable networks? A more controversial question is what happens to stations should NBC become a full-fledged cable network.

In some regards, many are seeing NBC's local TV groundwork already laid.  For months, NBC local television executives have pushed stations to become bigger local media players, moving beyond traditional programming into print, outdoor, radio, digital, whatever.

Many local TV stations, for example, aren't just using their own call letters to sell new local digital media wares, but expanding their vision in the form of new businesses -- under completely different brand names.

If last year yielded any major lesson, it's that local TV stations shouldn't wait for the next big economic fall -- or perhaps to be sold to a cable, telco or another media entity. They should move now.

Perry Sook, chairman/CEO/president of Nexstar Broadcasting, believes stations have inherent and long-term value. He says that virtually all the retransmission money should remain with local stations, not be shared with their respective networks. He says this is because of the value in local, news and other acquired programming on a TV station's schedules.

TV stations have already made drastic financial cuts over the last year - trimming local newscast production costs, and lowering syndicated programming license fees, for example.

So there's less high-priced turkey and more prime meat to chew on. Can Comcast get NBC affiliates to do even more with less -- or is there another agenda?


1 comment about "What Will Cabler's Ownership OF NBC Mean For Local Affiliates?".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, November 20, 2009 at 1:05 p.m.

    Excellent analysis.

    My take is that affiliates need to look at a calendar and note that in another 40 days it will read 2010 -- not 1980. Time marches on and the realities of the 20th century are literally history.

    You can wail that it's unfair, but TV never shed a tear for all those radio personalities too hideous to make the transition to new realities. Now it's TV's turn to be "old media" -- after 50 years of lording over the other old media.

    The functions of media remain the same: inform, entertain, connect people, play watchdog. The structures, however, have changed forever. The boat sailed over ten years ago on the idea of wired phones and wireless TV. It's the other way around now.

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