Local TV stations are sometimes unintentionally perceived as one dimensional by media professionals, marketers and Wall Street. And yet despite the expansion of content and distribution channels over the past twenty-five years, these local stations have retained a core set of variables that make them much more than a content pipe. They rally, console, connect, expose, articulate, notify, advise, empathize and reconcile information everyday through a lens that is relevant to the audiences they support in their local markets. TV stations are integrated into the community and exhibit skills beyond a static signal by taking on the multiple roles of trusted resource, philanthropist, community advocate, public servant,reliable steward, and sustainable local business operator to name a few. All of these assets were on exhibit during this year’s TVB Forward conference in New York City where the not for profit trade association hosted its local TV members, industry partners, and guests.
TVB President and CEO Steve Lanzano provided attendees with a broad agenda including speakers and panelists from finance, data research, technology, political, marketing and media to underscore the opportunities and headwinds specific to local TV broadcast. In addition, the audience was reminded through countless examples that TV stations are an integral part of the communities they serve and their capability to collaborate within and across markets is a powerful asset.
Marci Ryvicker, Wells Fargo Securities Managing Director, reinforced this value through her analysis that TV station ownership is a healthy business that has properly diversified its revenue to be less dependent on advertising; but admitted most on Wall Street still measure their stock positions in relation to the volatility of the advertising marketplace. The good news is the business case for local TV is again proving its resiliency by concentrating and promoting their core assets and knowledge of their local markets’ social, economic, and demographic diversity.
This year’s confab also went out of its way to invite and include their next generation of industry professionals. WideOrbit Founder and CEO Eric Mathewson supported a panel of young award winners who demonstrated their dedication, passion, and frustration for the business as well as their hope that the industry works collectively on solutions that serve many versus a select few. This generation embraces a strong desire to elevate community action which will enable the industry to articulate this value in a marketing environment that is more focused on business growth.
In his keynote, Bob Liodice, CEO Association National Advertisers (ANA) highlighted this opportunity by sharing the sentiment of his members and their concentrated effort to regain their influence on US business growth. This quest goes beyond transactional media cost savings or marketplace superiority and will require pragmatic information about market dynamics as well as the economic and social implications that challenge brand relevance. Current data collection methods are not sufficiently capturing this market level context and provides a key opportunity for local broadcasters to demonstrate and develop scalable solutions.
This effort may be ambitious while stations straddle their business objectives across traditional and new media. Technology advancements and new measurement techniques will challenge capital expenses for the near term as stations seek to retain advertising dollars that largely depend on transactional measurement guarantees and improved automation. However, given the collaborative nature of the local TV operators, there is a critical business opportunity to advance capabilities to create local market analysis and economic tools to serve marketers and a broader set of constituents.
Local TV broadcasters have a chance to lead these discussions and influence innovative framework that encourages marketing participation but the window of opportunity is limited. It just requires leveraging their scale and relevance to ignite the movement.