Today I had the privilege of speaking to a top broadcast TV group's senior executives at their annual offsite. Their president has seen my presentation at the NAB Futures Summit 6 months ago and invited me in to speak.
It's important to recognize there's a bit of a schism happening in the broadcast TV industry, fueled by broadband. One the one hand, broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC) are rushing headlong into broadband distribution. It's hard to remember, but it's been less than 2 years since Disney/ABC did its first digital distribution deal with iTunes. Since that time all networks have struck iTunes and other download deals, have put made most of their hit shows available for streaming, and more recently have plowed into new ventures (Hulu, CBS IAN, etc.) meant to dramatically broaden their digital reach. In short, the networks have smelled the coffee - they are moving to create what I've called a "digital replica" of the traditional broadcast industry.
None of this is good news for local TV broadcasters, until recently the only place to go for networks' hit programs. Naturally these digital alternatives will further fragment audiences jeopardizing lead-ins for late news and undermining ad revenues. On the bright side, many broadcasters aren't sitting still. In recent research Broadband Directions completed, we found that 46 of 50 (92%) stations we've been tracking now offer broadband video at their web sites. And of the 46, 39 (85%) are selling some kind of ads (pre-roll, display, sponsorships) against their video.
While this is encouraging, there's a long way to go. By and large local broadcasters' broadband video is a collection of newsclips, offering little personalization, targeted ads or widespread syndication. These and other areas offer broadcasters ample opportunity. Broadband is a real game-changer for local broadcasters, who need to gird themselves for its coming onslaught. But with sufficient willingness to adapt their models, they should be beneficiaries as well.