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.