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TVB Forward: Station Group Stocks Should Rebound

Broadcast stocks were up a whopping 280% in 2013, reported Marci Ryvicker, senior analyst at Wells Fargo Securities, at the TVB Forward conference, but are languishing around -20% this year. But the doldrums are largely behind the sector, said Ryvicker in a keynote. Aereo is all but dead, political spending is around the corner, and uncertainty around FCC chairman Tom Wheeler’s ruling on joint sales agreements has mostly cleared up.

“That really doesn’t bug me,” said Ryvicker. “[The industry] is going to be fine.”

Wheeler’s “bark is worse than his bite,” the ace analyst added. “I’m fairly confident the broadcast industry will grow regardless.”

That was heartening to the local broadcasters in the room—particularly after Ryvicker outlined scenarios for station groups sharing retrans with networks. While her middle of the road forecast had the locals giving 65% of retrans to the networks, she said “the market tells us” it’s more like a 10%-90% split in favor of the nets.

The TVB Forward conference was held, for the first time, at the Edison Ballroom off Manhattan’s Times Square. After TVB president/CEO Steve Lanzano’s welcome address to a packed venue, TVB chairman Bill Fine issued a “verbal RFP” to the Nielsens and Rentraks of the world to up their sample size and accuracy. “It is time for a reset,” he said.

After that, Dave Lougee, Gannett Broadcasting president, was awarded B&C’s Broadcaster of the Year prize. Lougee spoke of “quicker, more efficient” selling across all of platforms, allowing those selling local TV to spend more time with clients and less on the administrative end.

Lougee voiced his belief in local television’s relevancy. “Every day stations represented in this room make their communities better places to live. How many better callings are there than that?” he said. “So evolving our business model isn’t just a business imperative….it too should be a calling.”

Unannounced speaker Irwin Gotlieb addressed the room via video, and suggested a name change for local broadcasters. “You’re not in the broadcast business anymore,” said the Group M chairman/B&C Hall of Famer, recasting stations as multiplatform video providers.

Gotlieb said the death of television has been forecasted for far too long. "It ain't happening," he said.

Attendees comprised a veritable who’s who in local television, including Michael Fiorile, president and CEO of Dispatch Printing Company, Marci Burdick, Schurz senior VP, Rebecca Campbell, president of ABC Owned Television Stations, Perry Sook, Nexstar chairman/president/CEO, and Jordan Wertlieb, Hearst Television president.

Other speakers included Matt O’Grady, executive VP and managing director at Nielsen’s local media division, Stacey Schulman, executive VP of strategy, analytics and research at Katz Media Group, and Chuck Todd, NBC News political director and new host of Meet the Press.

Despite the uncertainty facing broadcasters, several influential voices were bullish on the business. “I’m really hopeful about the broadcasting industry,” said Ryvicker.