Commentary

Are New TV Networks Coming -- Or Just New Definitions?

Big TV news advertising revenues and viewing gains beg the question: Why isn’t there more to be made from a new cable TV news network?

The answer may be in how new virtual pay TV providers feel about TV news networks in “skinny” bundles. Maybe just a shrug of the shoulders. The bigger media market may also weigh in.

But steadily increasing TV viewing and national ad revenues for Fox News Channel, MSNBC and CNN could mean that another big brand player has room to make an entrance.

Others have tried in the recent past: Current TV, which ran from 2005 to 2013, and most recently Al Jazeera America, which bought out Current TV and lasted through April 2016.

Doing some Monday morning quarterbacking: If those networks had hung on through the presidential election, when advertising revenues grew and hungry news viewers consumed TV news content in a big way, things might have been different.

But there is more to this story. For many months, Sinclair Broadcast Group seemed a likely pick to form a new TV news network -- especially one with a conservative bent that could compete with Fox News.  

This would be especially true if Sinclair finds a way to compete its acquisition of Tribune Media, which could give it far broader U.S. coverage of TV homes -- now estimated to be around 60%.

Analysts have long suggested this could be the strategy for a new news network. But would that be as a broadcast network -- or cable channel -- or maybe something else? Maybe in the new age of vMVPDs, we need to abandon growing anachronistic TV industry definitions.

Sinclair’s growth might be viewed as history repeating itself.

In the late 1980s, 20th Century Fox, under the direction of Rupert Murdoch, owned a bunch of major market stations and a TV/film production studio. So it entered the world as a broadcast entertainment network. This was helped by independent TV stations looking for premium prime-time TV content and taking the role of Fox affiliated stations.

A year ago, Sinclair executives said publicly that starting a TV news network is not their goal. “We looked hard at launching a national cable news channel, but we decided the world didn’t need another cable news platform,” said Chris Ripley, CEO of Sinclair, at the time.

Ripley may have been looking at the bigger picture. According to Pew Research Center, 67% of Americans report they get at least some of their news on social media. That’s right. Facebook finds another way to get into the TV conversation.

Another TV news network may just need a newer definition.

2 comments about "Are New TV Networks Coming -- Or Just New Definitions?".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, April 26, 2018 at 9:38 a.m.

    Wayne, it's very hard to imagine a 24/7 news network operating on any list of broadcast stations making a profit no matter what its political bent is. On the other hand, a nightly half hour with some flexibility as to timing for individual stations offered on a syndicated basis, with a rerun later the same evening---like at 11PM, might work, creating a "network", of sorts, but one whose ratings and costs might make sense. 

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, April 26, 2018 at 9:16 p.m.

    What is coming ? Fascism.

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