Much of this optimism comes from massive changes to regional sports cable TV networks -- and a market-changing deal between Charter Communications and Walt Disney.
Gray Television believes the first bit of good news is the return of major sports TV leagues and teams to over-the-air TV stations, due to financial troubles of those regional sports networks (RSNs).
TV stations are all too happy to welcome back sports, because while the content is on "linear" TV, it is -- more importantly -- "live." This all works nicely with stations' continued efforts around live TV news, all of which analysts are now calling "premium” TV.
Think of these station groups as wannabe mini-Fox Corp. entities where their airwaves are dominated by news and sports.
Nexstar Media Group, the biggest U.S. TV station group, has a broader view: the overall decline of cable TV business is especially impacting small, niche cable TV networks, which now seem vulnerable.
As most business insiders know, this began with Charter Communications' now ground-breaking deal, where eight small or niche Walt Disney cable TV networks were not included in an overall long-term carriage deal.
Nexstar calls those networks "derivative." For example, Paramount+ channels include networks affixed with MTV brand names such as MTV2, MTV Tr3s, MTV Hits, MTV Jams, and MTV Classic, among others.
Nexstar believes the savings of carriage fees from those networks will be shifted to ever-bigger, strong local TV station groups -- in terms of projected strong rising retransmission revenues -- especially now because of growing sports and news content that people really want to watch.
Both Gray and Nexstar also believe continually rising consumer streaming costs will force consumers to trim back on certain premium streaming apps -- or in the case of Charter-Disney, where Charter will make streamers available on its legacy pay TV platforms, like ESPN+.
Basically, the belief is that business will return to old-school-type broadcast TV -- a place consumers are familiar with. The perception is that prices for these local TV stations will be free and/or modest versus the high price for pay TV services and/or premium streaming.
This could be all short-term thinking. Where, for example, do these TV station groups believe future TV station viewers will come from? Not necessarily millennials, Gen-Xers, or even 18- to-49-year-olds.
Right now, many do not even watch any live, linear TV -- or that much in the way of mainstream streaming services. Instead, they watch a lot of YouTube, as well as interacting with gaming content, and of course, tons of social media.
TV stations' regular customers are mostly older 60- to-65-year-old viewers.
Right now, sports and news content still appear to give TV stations all they need until the next technology innovation -- perhaps when artificial intelligence figures out what we all want to see -- and how to get it.