Sook: Local Broadcasters Answer the Call

New York – In his opening remarks at the TVB Forward conference Thursday, Nexstar Media Group chairman and CEO and TVB chairman Perry Sook praised local television broadcasters, emphasizing the need for and relevance of local news and programming, pointing to recent natural disasters in Texas and Florida.

Local broadcasters were a vital part of the recovery efforts in the wake Hurricane Harvey in Houston and Hurricane Irma, which decimated parts of western Florida. Before, during and after those disasters, local news teams were on the scene, providing residents of those areas with the “vital details they needed to protect their lives,” he said. “…When crisis strikes our communities— local broadcasters will always answer the call.”

He noted that several local stations conducted telethons and other fundraising activities and to date have contributed more than $45 million in disaster relief funds and supplies to the recovery efforts.

But the value of local broadcasters isn’t strictly tied to catastrophic events. Sook said that according to Nielsen, adults on average watch 2 hours and 22 minutes of local news programming each week, double their commitment to national broadcast news. And the number of adults reached via local broadcast news outnumbers those reached by news on smartphones and PCs four-to-one during the same time period.

“Simply put, Americans are consuming more news than ever before and viewing the most news content on our local stations,” Sook said.

That relationship with local viewers gives broadcasters a tremendous influence over purchasing and other life decisions. He cited a study by GfK that claims television is the most important influencer for all age groups across all stages of the “purchase funnel” from awareness to actually buying products. The same holds true in the political arena, where a Morning Consult Study found TV to be the biggest influence in virtually every stage of the voter decision-making process in 10 key swing states.

“In short, no other medium comes close to TV in terms of influencing decisions and delivering positive outcomes for advertisers and political campaigns,” Sook said.

The TVB chairman also noted that while others in the TV industry and the local ad community have bemoaned the complexity of the local TV ad buying process, Nexstar and several other broadcasters have put their heads together to do something about it. Earlier in the year Nexstar, Sinclair Broadcasting Group and Tribune Media met to address the problems, reaching out to more than a dozen systems providers involved in various aspects of spot TV transactions. The goal was to review existing specs and come up with a set of advanced API interfaces. He said the group is prepared to publish its work, which will be housed within TVB to provide industry-wide access.

“We want to create a coalition of willing system providers to work with buyers and sellers to implement streamlined transaction workflows using published, open, standards-based methods,” Sook said.

The local TV industry banded together before to make sure it received it was fairly compensated for retransmission consent of their signals from multichannel video programming distributors, he added. Now it’s time to team up again.

“Now, let’s work together to implement standardized and open API’s and explore the monetization opportunities of ATSC 3.0 to further benefit our viewers, or advertising partners, and shareholders and other stakeholders of our business,” Sook said.