Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Big Challenge Facing Local TV

How much of newspapers' fate are local TV station owners destined to endure? Maybe, too much.

- Diane Mermigas, media columnist

In Diane Memigas, "The Future Of Television: Local TV at Crossroads," Diane Mermigas: On Media, August 25, 2008

Mermigas notes that local television stations are feeling the same long term pressures that are buffeting local newspapers as the media system goes through major changes. She points out that as the February 2009 deadline nears for stations to give up their analog signals and go to fully digital transmissions, questions arise about the directions that station managements will take to place their firms on good economic footing in the new environment. The challenges are many, and not just because of the bad current economy. Ad dollars that used to go almost automatically to local TV stations are now migrating increasingly to websites. Cable TV operators have embarked on a program called Project Canoe that aims to connect cable systems across the United States with the ability to send targeted ads to individual homes. "In a world awash in interactive content distribution options, TV stations have lost their grip. Their sheer numbers exceed what many local markets can economically support..."

What can local stations do? Mermigas suggests that local TV stations may actually have to go out of business. The ones that survive will have to learn to use digital television with other digital media, often working together with Google, Yahoo, local newspapers, and cable operators to gain content and ad support. She says that "Stations able to solidify themselves as the definitive sources of local news and advertising will thrive if they find new ways to translate that online." Finally, she notes that "Local TV station owners could be their own worst enemies in underestimating or failing to properly leverage their local connections to communities, consumers and advertisers in utilizing interactive digital technology to their full advantage. "

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