New Challenges for America's Favorite Outlet For News, Sports.

Author:Friedman, Douglas

The "new" challenges the old. Television challenged radio and motion pictures decades ago for supremacy in the world of entertainment.

When I first joined the Board of Promax International (then BPME), radio station members complained that the association was too focused on serving its television station members, which represented an increasingly higher percentage of its membership. Over the course of the years, cable membership ascended to displace local television stations as number one, and subsequently, international membership overpowered U.S. cable and all others.

But radio is still here. As is cable. As is satellite. And international networks continue to flourish. But local U.S. television stations are feeling a unique squeeze, depending now on cable carriage to reach the majority of their potential audience. Homes that have now "cut the cord" for OTT ditched their rabbit ears years ago and will not go back to a traditional antenna.

So how do these stations get back to their positions of prominence as the "go-to" entertainment choice of viewers? Or at least, acknowledging the reality of the current media universe, become a part of viewers' regular viewing diet? The answer is to get back to basics.

Local television stations in the U.S. have always been in a unique position. They are the soul of television in the local community, but also the poor stepchildren of the powerful networks from whose programming they benefit. Now that that programming is also available online, and available almost instantaneously on subscription mobile apps, stations are starving for more benefits from the network-affiliate relationship.

In the case of independent stations (i.e., not affiliated with a network), their local bona fides are their raison d'etre, and they are therefore less conflicted about commitments to national programming. Still, cable, OTT, and other places the audiences find video entertainment increase the challenges to attract and maintain a loyal local audience.

For more than 70 years, the advancement of broadcast technology has always meant that stations must invest in new equipment on a regular basis. As stations advanced from black-and- white to color, film to video, analog to digital and standard def to HD, the cost of keeping up was a part of doing business. Will that change in the era of the Cloud? Only a fool would think we've reached the zenith of technological achievement.

So what is the key for local stations to survive? It...

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