Local TV News Feels Squeeze Amid Station Consolidation

Variety | 7/25/2017 | Staff
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The state of local TV news is sure to be a flash point when public debate over Sinclair Broadcast Group’s $3.9 billion purchase of Tribune Media heats up next month as the FCC fields comments on the proposed merger.

By many accounts, the wave of consolidation among TV stations over the past few years has been brutal for TV newsrooms across the country. The emergence of mega-groups such as Sinclair and Nexstar has put bottom-line pressure on stations to cut costs to help owners manage ballooning debt loads. At the same time, local TV has been grappling with ratings erosion, particularly in the daytime hours, which adds to pressure on profit margins.

Aggregation - Stations - Clusters - Broadcast - Groups

The aggregation of stations in regional clusters has become vital to big broadcast groups because viewership of local TV news is generally on the decline. Ratings for late local newscasts, which used to be a license to print money for successful stations, are down 31% since 2007, according to Pew Research Center’s just-released Local TV News Fact Sheet.

Viewership of local morning news has fallen 12%, and early-evening newscasts have slumped 19% since 2007, according to Pew. Younger viewers, in particular, have drifted away from local TV outlets to digital and cable news providers — a troubling long-term trend. For now, local news is still a huge revenue driver for stations, but it’s not as profitable as it once was.

Broadcast - Executives - Scale - Companies - Kind

Broadcast executives counter that only by having increased scale will companies be able to invest in the kind of news-gathering facilities and reporting resources that support coverage of local news and stem viewer loss. Perry Sook, CEO of Nexstar, points to the growth in the number of bureaus in state capitals that Nexstar has established to feed all of its outlets in a given state.

“No one station could afford to have a...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Variety
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