Retrans Riches Follow Good Local Content

NEW YORK — Duopolies — virtual and actual — are essential to the TV-station business and do not decrease the number 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, some panelists said.

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

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 said they 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 shakeout occurring in the next few years,” said Bill Hoff man, 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?”

Michael Malone is deputy editor of B&C.

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.