Friday, April 13, 2007

Another Take on Local TV Stations & The Internet

Last June, I wrote a post about consolidation in the local TV station sector. In part, I wrote,

"I can't help but see a parallel to the troubles and solutions of daily newspapers a decade or more ago. Papers began to share printing plants, and, essentially, become differently positioned products freelancing off of the same production assets. It would not surprise me if local television stations, including the major city stations, do the same.

... I'd expect that, over the next few years, competing local broadcast stations will pool their facilities and news gathering, perhaps simply merging into one station per local market. If not the latter, then at least sharing all possible resources, save on-air staff, content selection, and idiosyncratic local programming.

Yet another example of Schumpeterian dynamics at work without any overt organizing entity to guide it, save technological change and consumer behavioral responses."

A recent Wall Street Journal article updated the situation, noting how many TV stations are losing ad revenues faster than they can transit to web-exclusive content.

But this time, what struck me, in addition to my prior observations, is that there is no particular difference between the online presence of a newspaper, and that of a TV station. Once they both go to the internet, how could you tell which is which, if they weren't labeled? I suppose, initially, because one would feature more writing than the other. However, I'm not sure that will last.

Because online is a medium tailored to video, won't both morph in that same direction?

Last year, I foresaw multiple TV stations in a single market combining online. Now, I wonder if we won't see all, or most, print and TV assets/organizations combine online? Essentially, both types of local information media companies are struggling with the web's erosion of all of their exclusively non-local content.

Isn't the obvious solution for them all to simply combine into one new media outlet? Further, if one were starting up a local information content business, wouldn't you just develop a web-based multi-media site? Offer written pieces, news, editorials, video news, ads, and local commercial, community, etc., information? Of course you would.

I can't see much meaningful differentiation in local print or video media, once it moves onto the web. Seems to me the consolidation has at least one more important step to go.

Question is, where would that leave the local affiliation to a broadcast network? Would it even have economic value anymore, in a world in which every entity, whether local media outlet or network, can provide its own content on separate websites?

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