Broadcast Stations Want To Loosen Ownership Restrictions: Ad Revs Vs. Digital Media

Broadcast TV stations groups — especially those network-affiliate stations — have, for decades, long complained about merger restrictions.

Now with continued rising competition from digital platforms — local, national, and otherwise — TV network-owned affiliate groups (ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox) are trying again, sending a letter to the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice demanding change.

Currently, TV station ownership that's a single entity — TV station group, for example — can’t own TV stations that reach more than 39% of the U.S. TV households. Also, two of the big four broadcast television networks ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC cannot merge.

The letter cites growing online/digital advertising revenues versus sinking local TV stations advertising. While digital ad revenues grew to a 42.2% share in 2019 from 12.6% in 2010, “local broadcast TV stations have seen their share of total ad revenue decline to 7.1% in 2019.”



It adds advertisers that purchase television advertising now report using 31 different ad platforms. There is plenty of competition out there.

The letter disputes previous Antitrust Division conclusions that broadcast TV continues to be a dominant form of content, that other media just “complements, not substitutes, broadcast television advertising."

And not just digital media. “The cable television audience collectively has long exceeded the broadcast audience ... The reach for video ads that was once available only on broadcast stations can now be bought with purchases across multiple platforms.”

All this comes in response to slow-moving TV stations efforts to compete with digital media, such as easing the buying local TV advertising -- long complained about by media agencies. Over the last few years, programmatic local TV advertising platforms have grown -- though it’s an uneven process.

Plus, TV stations are pursuing a slow rollout of the new broadcast standard ATSC 3.0 in local markets. In theory, it will help them be more competitive with digital competitors — especially with advertising.

Maybe the Department of Justice Anti-Trust division needs to hear more about these efforts before making any recommendations for ownership changes.

Next story loading loading..