Will TV Station Groups, Networks Compete For National Ad Dollars?

Could Sinclair Broadcast Group, Nexstar Media Group or Tegna be looking to compete for national TV dollars? 

The push is on, and not just when it comes to new and/or acquired national media platforms, but possibly through old-fashion TV station station ownership.

In a recent FCC filing, these stations groups are now seeking a 78% cap on U.S. TV households. That's reached from the ownership of scores of TV stations by one company.

The current FCC cap on TV stations is 39% of U.S. homes. This includes UHF stations, which according to the rule, which has been revived, allows media companies to count their UHF stations at half their reach. It means allowing more TV stations deal-making overall.

No matter. TV stations say it’s a different world now, with much more competition. Things should be easier; just make overall TV station U.S. household coverage 78%.



At that level, TV stations could sell, and compete, against national TV networks/platforms (including, in theory, their own TV station affiliate network partners) for national TV advertising dollars.

In the filing, TV stations said the current rules are “arbitrary, unfair restraint on their ability to compete with increasingly national [emphasis added] and indeed global, players in the television programming industry.”

For the better part of a year or more, analysts had rumored that Sinclair, for example, wanted to start a conservative cable news network to compete with Fox News Channel.

Chris Ripley, CEO, Sinclair, quashed that speculation, citing Sinclair’s best efforts for growth came from its own local TV stations efforts. Now, that claim might have some teeth to it.

Unlike when Fox was trying to create a new broadcasting network in the late 1980s -- and needing a group of 150 to 200 or so TV stations as affiliates to gain national TV advertising -- Sinclair, and others, in a modern TV age, are in a better position. Sinclair, for example, already owns -- or operate more than 191 TV stations.

In a mostly deregulation environment, thanks to the Trump Administration, does this model have a chance to succeed?

3 comments about "Will TV Station Groups, Networks Compete For National Ad Dollars?".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, March 13, 2019 at 10:59 a.m.

    Wayne, for years we have had "unwired" TV networks, essentially national spot TV buys, with guaranteed  overall GRP tonnage and independent auditing based on affidavits and national Nielsen data. If Sinclair or any other station group decided to sell against the national networks and cable channels, they would have to go by the same rules and would to a great extent be competing with the unwireds which now supply them with national ad dollars. The only ways to do that  would be to low ball on price---not a great option---or to develop "original" content which would be available to national buyers via in-show breaks as well as spot buyers via separate in-show breaks. Here, the station group would be competing not only with the networks and unwireds but with syndicators who sell national time on many shows aired by the stations.

    Even if a station group decided to  go in the original content direction, which sets it up as a pseudo national network, the question arises--what kind of content are we talking about? Edgy primetime fare is out of the question due to high program costs plus too much competituion from Netflix and others, reality fare would be nothing new, sitcoms pose similar risks to dramas, etc. so the most likely options are a news service of some sort or, perhaps, a sports network. Of these the news option is more likely as that's something the stations know how to do content-wise---but is there a market for another old adult skewed news service?  I'd think twice---or thrice---before jumping into that frying pan. A subscription-based  locally oriented news service might be another matter as we shall eventually see when NBC launches its version of same. But would this attract national TV ad dollars?

  2. Larry Grossman from Media Encounters, March 13, 2019 at 3:20 p.m.

    Sinclair has had a network sales organization selling an unwired fixed break network for years.  They are sellin national CPM guarantees just like the networks

  3. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, March 13, 2019 at 4:26 p.m.

    Thanks, Larry. But isn't that another reason why a national Sinclair network wouldn't fly---it would be selling against its own" unwired"?

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