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NYC TV Week: Provide Best Local Content, and Retrans Riches Will Follow

Duopolies -- virtual and actual -- are essential to the TV station business and do not decrease the amount of news voices in the community said some local TV chiefs in the NYC Television Week panel "The Rush to Buy Local: What's Really Going on Here?"

Such shared service arrangements help put local news on stations that otherwise may not air it, said the panelists.

"It's really improving the accessibility to news and information for consumers that otherwise wouldn't have the opportunity," said Randy Bongarten, chairman and CEO of Bonten Media.

The notion that more owners means more diversity is a "fallacy," said Bongarten, who added that going through the regulatory hoops required of virtual duopolies is a "waste of everyone's time."

The panelists believed stations will see a more equitable split of retransmission cash from the video distributors they partner with. "There's probably going to be a shakedown occurring in the next few years," said Bill Hoffman, Cox Media Group president, with stations getting paid more in line with the level of viewership they are delivering.

That will give TV stations more resources to produce local news. "If you're a No. 3 in the market, providing news is a tough situation," said Deborah McDermott, Young Broadcasting president/CEO and new B&C Hall of Fame inductee. "Retrans can help."

Hoffman stressed that the best way to command substantial retrans cash is to make your local content second to none. "What are you doing to super-invest in your community," he posited, "so that you're impossible to live without?"