What Do TV Stations Need In 2010? Less National Programming, For One

TV stations need to embrace more of their localism to be successful in the coming years -- which could mean no more new court or tabloid magazine shows.

We're talking about the current failure of trying to cater to an entire DMA the same way. In the digital age, this is too much "broadcasting." Stations need to go far beyond local efforts and focus much more on micro-localism.

TV consultant/analyst firm BIA/Kelsey says 2010 will be a watershed year. It says stations need to use their resources -- well-known local brands, strong local content, and experienced sales personnel -- to get things moving.

When executives speak of local content, they are talking mostly about local news. But this may not be enough. TV stations need to get much more targeted. Take the New York DMA: What do teenagers in Staten Island want, women on the Upper East Side, or working class men in Garden City? What if you had different programming for each?



It would seem that for TV stations to survive long-term, they need to think beyond sending a TV station's local newscast straight to your cell phone. That alone isn't going to be the savior of TV stations.

What should change? Perhaps there should be fewer nationally distributed syndicated talk shows, court shows, magazine shows, and off-network sitcoms.

This is not to say nationally syndicated programming doesn't have its place. It brings decent rating to stations, which makes them great marketing platforms for local TV newscasts. But TV stations may have relied too much on those shows, in a tactic fueled by the Financial Interest and Syndication Rules.

The FCC started up Fin-Syn in 1970. But the intent was for stations to program "locally" in an attempt to increase program diversity and limit the market control of the three broadcast television networks. (The rules were eliminated in the mid-'90s). It didn't turn out that way.

It may sound crazy for a TV station to think about multiple programming options targeting different viewers in different neighborhoods. But that may be what consumers want.

How can one TV station finance all of these options? Maybe it comes from social media content; maybe user-generated video.

The National Association of Television Program Executives meeting is about to start up next week in Las Vegas, a much smaller conference than it was in previous decades -- smaller perhaps because of how the national program sales process gets transacted these days.

Considering the year TV stations had in 2009 and the last half of 2008, executives need to think well beyond just one 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. nationally distributed show.

Maybe that's something NATPE might see as an opportunity.

3 comments about "What Do TV Stations Need In 2010? Less National Programming, For One".
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  1. Sara Paxton from Evans Media Group, January 20, 2010 at 12:08 p.m.

    As usual, another great piece about TV, Wayne. I share most of your content via Twitter and Facebook and reference some of your data in blog posts. Are you on Twitter so that I can mention and follow you in my tweets? I follow and source @Mediapost but always love to give credit to the author/originator.


  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, January 20, 2010 at 12:19 p.m.

    I think this will be more confusing, expensive and too local will disengage audiences more than you think. And seriously, how much of your limited time do you really want to watch sloppy user-generated content you can't get on u-tube? There's is a pittance of ad dollars available for this how many local $500 annual budgets are you going to fight for? - and will not generate profitability. Take a couple of years and sell ads for a little local paper, then run the numbers, especially your pay check.

  3. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, January 20, 2010 at 1:51 p.m.

    Exactly true. The use of local stations to distribute national programs is an accident of history, or a fluke of the spectrum, because years ago a network simply could not function without a link of stations spread across the country. That condition ended with the regular use of geostationary satellites. After that point, it was just a matter of time before nearly all homes were linked via cable or satellite. According to Nielsen, now over 90 percent of homes get cable or satellite, so networks barely need affiliates anymore. Certainly local stations got lazy over the years with regard to localism, because they could count on huge audience shares from their networks. Now that the combined net shares are in the low 30s, it's time for local stations to get a lot closer to their communities, which means more local programming.

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