June 04, 2014
/ by Katrina M Mendolera
While most print publishers have been turning toward digital to reimagine new business models and a future online, Gannett and the Tribune Company are looking beyond the trappings of print. The two publishers have been steadily growing their television holdings over the last year.
In December, Gannett closed on its acquisition of the Belo Company, increasing the number of its TV stations from 23 to 40, reported Bloomberg.com. This makes Gannett — already the largest newspaper publisher in the country — the fourth-largest owner of major TV network affiliates as well.
Earlier last month, Gannett also agreed to buy six stations from London Broadcasting Company, which is based in Dallas. According to USAToday.com, the deal included the Texas stations KCEN-TV (NBC), KYTX-TV (CBS), KIII-TV (ABC), KBMT-TV (ABC) and its digital sub-channel KJAC-TV, KXVA-TV, and KIDY-TV.
This focus on TV has not gone unrewarded. Poynter reported in April that Gannett’s revenue from broadcasting practically doubled over the same period a year earlier. Meanwhile, the company’s print properties went down 3.3 percent for the quarter.
But Gannett isn’t content with just news stations. The company announced in April that it had made a deal with the Weinstein Company to develop movies and television shows based off of Gannett journalism, reported NYTimes.com. This includes scripted entertainment as well as non-scripted programming such as reality shows.
Just this week, BroadcastingCable.com reported that Gannett Broadcasting had formed a relationship with Debmar-Mercury, a television syndication company, to develop, produce, test and distribute new series for their first run. Mort Marcus, co-president of the syndication company, told BroadcastingCable.com:
“Instead of just doing a pilot, we are producing six or ten episodes and airing them over several weeks. After that, you really know if you can produce that show. You know if there’s a point of view you can bring to the show every day. It’s by no means a sure thing that the show will work, but it’s much healthier than doing one episode and forcing the marketplace to commit to that show for two years.”
Much like Gannett, the Tribune Company has been looking in new directions since it announced it would spin off its television division from its print products to focus on broadcast. The company acquired Cincinnati-based Local TV LLC, gaining 19 television stations in 16 markets to become the largest commercial television station owner in the U.S.
The company also showed its commitment to broadcast when its technology and innovation arm, Tribune Digital Ventures, agreed to purchase TV by the Numbers, a leading research and editorial resource dedicated to the analysis of TV ratings data and network programming news from Hollywood. Digital Ventures also relaunched entertainment website Zap2it.com to help TV fans find programming on TV and streaming services, reported MediaBistro.com.
According to Bloomberg.com, Peter Liguori, head of the Tribune Company, is steering the company towards original programming. For example, Tribune’s WGN America cable network recently premiered “Salem,” a show based on the 17th century Massachusetts witch trials. “You get an increase in your ratings, higher ad rates because advertisers want originals, and a rise in the brand profile of your cable network to get more distribution,” Liguori told Bloomberg.com. “All of that is critical to TV.”
Mixing entertainment with news is a fairly well-thought-out means to balance the fallouts that the traditional media industry, TV included, has experienced as a result of the 2008 recession and a vastly changing landscape. And this is probably just the beginning of a media focused on the most lucrative aspects of TV and on the crowd that will doubtless tune in to watch.
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