VideoNet | Local TV’s Last Hurrah | By Roger Franklin
Few things are as fundamental, constant and reassuring as the buzzing cluster of local network affiliates and independents that dominate today’s broadcast airwaves.
“Tune in at 10 for breaking news.” “Start your morning with Mike and Liz.” “We’ll finance anyone on The Miracle Mile.”
But local TV’s days are inevitably numbered. Its original model, in which stations contracted with national networks to retransmit programming during certain hours, has eroded as:
(1) Consumer viewing and information-gathering habits continue to evolve. Time-shifting, binge viewing, cord-cutting, subscriptions, near-real-time news coverage in social media, and mobile “snacking” are destroying the legacy ad-supported one-size-fits-all model, as well as its ratings underpinning. An ever-smaller portion of the audience relies on local broadcasters.
(2) Networks and content producers have multiple distribution alternatives that bypass local players. The Comcast/NBC and AT&T/DirectTV mergers effectively erase the boundary between cable and broadcast, and permit networks to route content directly to audiences–and profitability. In addition, OTT players like Netflix, Showtime, and HBO ignore local considerations as they simultaneously give video content a longer and more profitable life. Comcast’s Xfinity service is essentially a giant DVR that offers video-on-demand to customers.