Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Sports Video Group
NMT Assets Set for Auction Friday; 47 Employees Laid Off
National Mobile Television has laid off 47 staffers, closed offices in New Jersey and Florida, and appears to be setting the stage to close its doors after more than 40 years in operation.
The Torrance, CA-based remote-production company’s secured lender, Wachovia Capital Finance, has also issued a Notice of Public Sale of Collateral for the company’s remaining assets during an auction that will take place April 3 at 10 a.m. CT.Twenty-one employees — 12 engineers and nine administrative workers — remain on hand to service existing clients, notably the MSG Network and the Phoenix Suns (the field shop in Torrance, CA, and the Dallas equipment warehouse remain open).
It is not yet known whether NMT will service MSG and the Suns through the end of the season and playoffs.
“That is still to be decided,” says Wachovia Capital Finance VP Brian Hynds.In recent months, the company sold off assets and contracts to NEP and NCP in an attempt to stay afloat.
However, the current economic climate and a lack of consistent future business led to Wachovia’s decision to close the doors. Assets to be sold include two HD production units (HD3 and HD10), seven digital trucks, and one side-by-side unit.
Courant, WTIC-TV and WTXX-TV Join Forces in Connecticut’s Largest Newsroom
Richard Graziano Appointed as Courant’s Publisher
CHICAGO, March 30, 2009 -- Tribune Company today announced that it will bring the operations of the Hartford Courant and those of WTIC-TV and WTXX-TV together under one roof later this year, creating the largest print/broadcast news-gathering operation in Connecticut.
The combined entities will be led by Richard Graziano, senior vice president/general manager of the two television stations, who has been named publisher of Courant effective immediately.
"This is the future of media," said Randy Michaels, Tribune’s chief operating officer."Whether in print, over the air, or online -- the delivery mechanism isn’t as important as the unique, rich nature of the content provided. Bringing these media properties together will enable us to bring more resources to our news coverage, improving and expanding what we can offer readers, viewers and advertisers in the area."
Following the move, WTIC-TV and WTXX-TV will begin broadcasting news from a state-of-the-art, high-definition studio located in the Courant’s newsroom. Construction of the studio is expected to begin later this summer. WTIC-TV also plans to expand its news offerings by adding two half-hour broadcasts, one at noon and another at 6 p.m. Between them, the two stations currently provide 33 hours of news each week to viewers in Hartford.
Graziano has overseen Tribune’s Hartford television stations since 2005, and last July was promoted to senior vice president/general manager, assuming additional oversight responsibility for the company’s stations in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. He is a veteran broadcast executive with a proven track record of success in Connecticut. WTIC-TV has grown market share consistently over the last four years, and its 10 p.m. news is #1 with viewers.
"We are focused on serving Hartford and Connecticut and Rich is the best person to lead our efforts," said Ed Wilson, president of Tribune Broadcasting. "He’s talented, experienced, and has great leadership skills. But most importantly, Rich knows the market better than anyone."
The Courant reaches more than 800,000 consumers in print and online each week and is the oldest continuously published newspaper in the United States. WTIC-TV and WTXX-TV are the only television stations remaining in Hartford that originate local news from the city, an important distinction for Graziano.
"This move is a demonstration of our commitment to news and to downtown Hartford," said Graziano. "The people who live and work in this area have been through a lot recently and the local economy is tough, but the folks here are resilient and dedicated to making things better for themselves and their communities. So are we."
Bringing the Courant and the television stations together will also benefit advertisers, creating a more efficient one-stop operation for print, broadcast and online ad sales.
Steve Carver, who has served as the Courant’s publisher since November 2006, will leave the company following a short transition period.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Dear IATSE Local 600 Brothers & Sisters:
This came to me by way of IATSE Local 52 It includes new names to call.
Once again, it will be the effort put fourth of our Entertainment community ,families and as individuals to make your voice heard. Encourage your crew members to call on the set pass the cell phone .Have your family members call the more calls the faster this will be resolved. Please start calling as soon as you receive this and pass on.
1st Camera Assistant
Eastern Region Vice President
IATSE Local 600
From IATSE Local 52
The legislature and governor are in meetings all weekend in an attempt to pass a state budget . It is critical that members leave messages for the leaders below.
Governor David Paterson (518) 474-8390
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (518)455-3791
Senate Finance Chair Carl Kruger (518)455-2460
Malcolm Smith Senate Majority Leader (518) 455-2701
Hi , my name is ------------- , I am a member of -----------------. My job is ------------------.
I work on ------------------- .
I am calling to urge you to refinance the New York State Film and Television Production Tax Credit. This tax credit is directly related to my having work , healthcare and a pension. This tax credit is important to my family and to the overall economy of New York State as the film industry creates ten of thousands of jobs and generated billions in revenue .Thank you.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
NBC News has instituted an across-the-board freeze on raises for its executives and talent, even those with contracts guaranteeing them salary bumps.
A tipster tells us that NBC News—and probably all of NBC Universal, though we're not sure—is discreetly calling around and asking its on-air and off-air employees to take one for the team and voluntarily delay any contractually obligated salary increases for six months. Anyone who has a contract that spells out a raise, of course, is free to say, "No, give me my money." But word is that the network will remember any untoward responses and take them into account when they work out the next budget.
It's kind of odd, at a time when NBC Universal is bizarrely one of G.E.'s best performing divisions, that employees in the unit have to pay the price for the rest of the company's stupid mistakes. But they're being told that they are all employees of GE, and need to be as generous and magnanimous as that asshole from AIG who gave his bonus away.
Read More: Television, Nbc News, Recessionomics
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The head of the CBC says the public broadcaster will strive to keep local stations open as it slashes jobs.
In a broadcast to CBC's 9,850 employees, Hubert Lacroix has announced that 800 full-time jobs will be eliminated across the country in an effort to balance the budget.
However, it's impossible to say exactly how many layoffs there will be because the public broadcaster will offer buyouts first and wait for employees to take them before re-evaluating the situation around mid-May.
Lacroix says CBC is facing a 171-million-dollar shortfall this fiscal year amid falling advertising revenue.
In past years, the government has offered additional money on top of the usual $1.1 billion allocated to the CBC, but in the past couple of weeks Heritage Minister James Moore repeatedly said the extra funds would not be forthcoming.
However, the government is in discussions to help out the debt-laden Canwest Communications Corp. (TSX:CGS.A) as well as other private broadcasters facing massive shortfalls as viewers turn to the Internet and the struggling auto industry cuts back advertising in media.
In a statement released early Wednesday afternoon, the CBC said it was committed to keeping radio commercial-free and also retaining Canadian programming in prime-time hours. It also announced that executive salaries would be cut by 10 to 20 per cent. Media spokesman Marco Dubé said this represents a total savings of $2 million in salary freezes and cuts to bonuses (incentive payments) for the executives.
"We've done and will continue to do everything we can to minimize the impact of the situation on our staff," said president and chief executive Hubert T. Lacroix in the statement.
"But in a company where 60 per cent of the overall budget goes to salaries, it's simply impossible to bridge a gap of this magnitude without having a major impact on people."
The CBC also outlined a business plan that includes seeking government approval to sell $125-million-worth of assets.
The plan is to cut about 400 jobs in its English services, about 330 in its French services and another 70 corporate positions.
Layoffs could start in May.
Other measures cost-cutting announced included:
- Decreasing regional programs in radio and television, as well as reductions in news, current affairs, drama, special event, and music programming;
- More repeat presentations to fill the empty slots left behind by these reductions;
- Decreasing the marketing budget;
- Streamlining production;
- Slashing discretionary travel and hospitality expenses;
- Slowing down recruitment.
The CBC, like all media organizations, has been hit hard by the sharp drop in advertising revenues. But the federal Conservative government has refused any further financial assistance to the CBC, which already gets $1.1 billion in public funding each year.
CBC president Hubert Lacroix has already warned that the looming cuts will change the "very nature of our service to Canadians."
Facing a shortfall estimated at between $65 million and $100 million, it's almost certain that local programming nationwide will take a hit, said Ian Morrison, spokesperson for Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, a watchdog group.
"It has to affect their local, their grassroots services around the country ... likely it's something that will reduce their capacity to offer local television and radio services in small to medium-size centres across the country," he said.
Christopher Waddell, associate director of Carleton University's School of Journalism and Communication, told CTV Newsnet that broadcasters are faced with both long and short-term problems.
"All broadcasters are facing two issues. In the short-term, the recession and the advertising drop off," he said. "And the other thing broadcasters are dealing with, that all media is dealing with, is the changes technologically," he said. "The old audiences don't exist in the same way."
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
As I am sure most of you are aware of by now, IATSE's new contract with the AMPTP has been unanimously approved by the 15-member Hollywood-based bargaining unit. IATSE Local 600's members voted by a 1229 to 904 margin (58% to 42%) to ratify the Basic Agreement. The official IATSE announcement is below, and you can click here to see the American Arbitration Association's certified results of the Local's ratification vote.
The three year contract, which will go into effect August 1, 2009, was tentatively proposed last November, with drafting completed last month.
At the time of the November negotiations, IA President Matthew D. Loeb stated, “This was a tough negotiation during tough economic times but both sides worked hard and negotiated reasonably to come to this agreement.”
After each of the 15 locals covered under the new contract ratified the agreement, Loeb added, “We have delivered a strong contract in a very chaotic economic climate. We feel we have given our members the best protection we can at a time when the bottom is falling out of a lot of traditional business models. We look forward to three years of labor stability and a commitment to keeping our members working.”
Terms and conditions of the agreement are in line with industry standards as established in recent negotiations and with applicable modifications for the particular needs of IATSE members.
The IATSE is an International Union that represents members employed in the stagecraft, motion picture and television production, and trade show industries throughout the United States, its Territories, and Canada.
(For background information on the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees: www.iatse-intl.org.)
For More Guild News, Click Here
Know Your Rights: Right-to-Work States
Know Your Rights: Many States have passed Right to Work Legislation that allows film and television productions (among other industries) to hire non-union workers even on union-organized productions. This means that crews in these states may be mixed between union and non-union members. All other aspects of the contract remain in full effect. In addition, the production is required to pay union benefits on all crew, regardless if they are union members or not.
Some members mistakenly believe that there is no such thing as a union job in a so-called "right-to-work" state. That is not true. "Right-to-work" legislation just keeps the union from requiring those who work under their contracts to join the union. The intent of that legislation is to deprive the union of dues, thereby weakening the organization. Those who work under those contracts and don't pay dues are commonly known as "free-riders."
However, there are many strong unions in so-called "right-to-work" states. Our Basic Agreement, for example, is the same in Florida (a "right-to-work state) as it is in California. There are no "free-riders" currently working under Local 600 contracts.
For More Rights, Click Here
Monday, March 23, 2009
By Bob Garfield
Remember how Clear Channel, the radio-TV-billboard colossus, was going to destroy our very democracy by voraciously swallowing every broadcast station in America? For a decade, the mantra from media-concentration hawks: Stop Clear Channel now or we will all be slaves!
Yeah, well, we're probably safe. After being purchased by two private-equity firms (for $38 per share, down from $100 in 2000), Clear Channel dumped its 56 TV stations and tried to unload more than 500 of its small-market radio stations, but has been stymied by the credit freeze and declining value of those assets. Without those sale proceeds, the company's prospects for default on its $20 billion debt are worrisome enough that Standard & Poor's rates its commercial paper five steps below investment grade. Junk, in other words.
In early February, S&P said it was considering downgrading the company yet again. The fearsome juggernaut has just laid off 9% of its work force.
At least it got out of TV when the getting was merely not so good. Bernstein Research predicts a 20% to 30% drop in 2009 TV station ad revenue. Stations' share of TV ad dollars, according to TNS Media Intelligence, dropped to 26% in 2007 from 34% in 2000.
Affiliate fees from networks have essentially disappeared, and the values of local licenses have plummeted, resulting in massive write-downs by ownership groups. And two of the four major networks -- CBS and NBC -- have publicly hinted that the days of distributing programming over the air via affiliates are numbered.
"Do we want to be what we've been?" asked NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker at a December investor conference, as if the matter were in his hands. If everybody had their druthers, the status quo would be just dandy: networks distributing programming to local broadcasters and selling the aggregated audience to advertisers at ever higher costs per thousand.
But nobody has their druthers. According to Nielsen Media Research, in the last reporting period, CBS's prime-time audience was down 2.9%. ABC was down 9.7%, Fox was down 17.5% and NBC was down 14.3%.
The numbers were particularly devastating for Zucker, whose weak schedule has exacerbated viewer exodus, resulting in lost revenue, yielding huge spending cutbacks, producing cheap, even-less-popular programming (no dramas or sitcoms in the first hour of prime time, more and more "The Big Loser" and next "The Jay Leno Show" only in the last hour), leading to still more viewer defection and so on toward oblivion. Zucker keeps the lights on only because mass marketers, desperate for access to even the Incredible Shrinking Mass Audience, have continued to pay more and more for less and less.
The average price of reaching 1,000 households with a 30-second spot in prime time, according to Media Dynamics, has jumped from $8.28 in 1986 to $22.65 in 2008 -- but effectively more like $32, because between 150 and 200 of those 1000 households use DVRs to skip past the ads.
But the ratchet effect is over. What the law of diminishing returns could not influence, the deep recession has. Now the advertiser exodus, too, is under way. As of mid-February, 71% reported having slashed their 2009 budgets, and 6% more said the cuts were on their way.
That's why Zucker finally admits to considering a once-unthinkable proposition: once affiliate contracts and pro-sports deals expire, ceasing to be a network at all. NBC: the cable channel.
And that's not just the last resort of the Big Four laggard. It's also the last resort of the Big Four leader. At CBS, where fourth-quarter profit was down 54%, Les Moonves has publicly speculated about a similar move "five or 10 years away."
Just fair warning, guys: Cable has problems of its own. It's no more DVR-proof than broadcast. It is also suffering a sort of distribution autoimmune disease, wherein the body attacks itself. The very coax the industry has been stringing for 50 years is now the pipe for broadband, which households increasingly are using to bypass pay cable entirely.
Charter Communications will soon be in bankruptcy after losing more than 75,000 basic-cable customers in the fourth quarter of 2008. Churn, the expensive process of replacing lost subscribers with new ones, is taking its toll. Comcast's sign-ups in the fourth quarter were down by half from 2007. Here's what Glenn Britt, CEO of Time Warner Cable, told analysts in his last earnings conference call: "People are saying, 'All I need is broadband. I don't need video."
Britt was referring to "over-the-top," which, if you don't like the autoimmune analogy, can equally be thought of as being shot with your own gun. The game changer in this respect is Boxee, a software app that aggregates all your videos onto one screen and allows you to feed them into your TV machine. This is what they mean by "convergence."
But Boxee is such a threat to the business model of both cable and broadcast that Hulu -- which distributes NBC, Fox and Viacom programs online for free with minimal advertising -- demanded to be removed from Boxee's offerings.
Because if you can watch TV programs on your actual TV, with very few ads and no subscription fees to a cable middleman, why wouldn't you?
Thus, the mantra: "We have the audience. All we need is a business model." As if adequate revenue were somehow guaranteed by physics or heavenly deity. It isn't. I've pored over Isaac Newton and the Ten Commandments. There is no "Thou shalt monetize."
Read the whole story at: http://adage.com/article?article_id=135440
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Tuesday, March 17, 2009
The Los Angeles Times
About 20 employees will be laid off, perhaps starting this week, to offset a $2-million budget hole.
Confronted with a growing budget deficit, the Writers Guild of America, West plans to cut about 20 positions by the end of the month.
The guild, which has about 185 employees, notified worker representatives last week that layoffs, which could begin this week, were needed to plug a budget hole of more than $2 million, said two people familiar with the matter. The union, which has 8,000 members, has annual operating expenses of about $25 million.
David Young, the union's executive director, recently told the guild's board that he was considering job cuts to close a budget shortfall, which guild officials have largely blamed on investment losses caused by the stock market decline and a sharp falloff in jobs and work for writers during the last year. A guild representative declined to comment.The layoffs can be directly tied to the tough times for Hollywood writers.
As scripted shows went dark during the 100-day writers strike last year, television networks beefed up production of reality programs -- which typically don't use union writers -- to fill the airwaves. That continued after the strike ended in February, creating fewer opportunities for writers. Some scripted shows didn't come back, while others returned with fewer episodes.
Writers also found it harder to command the same fees as they had in the past for work on network shows, which have been losing viewers to the Internet. More recently, the slowdown in work has been exacerbated by networks' ordering fewer pilots for new series. All of which has meant less money rolling into the guild's coffers.
The WGA's income depends on how much its members earn. Guild members, as part of their union dues, are required to contribute 1.5% of their earnings each quarter.
Also contributing to the budget shortfall, people familiar with the union's finances say, is the guild's ongoing campaign to organize writers in the reality TV sector who work behind the scenes crafting dialogue for programs.
The guild spent about $400,000 on the drive last year, a person familiar with the situation said.
Some of the 20 positions could be eliminated through attrition, resulting in fewer layoffs. Affected employees will receive severance packages and a guarantee that they will be rehired if the union's finances improve.
Friday, March 13, 2009
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
News Corp. announced a restructuring of its television and film operations, as President and Chief Operating Officer Peter Chernin, who leads the company's entertainment businesses, prepares to depart.
The company's film and television production businesses will be combined under two News Corp. movie executives, Jim Gianopulos and Tom Rothman, who currently serve as co-chairmen of Fox Filmed Entertainment. All of Fox's TV-entertainment networks will be folded under cable executive Tony Vinciquerra.
Peter Liguori, who oversees television programming for the Fox broadcast network, will step down from his post, the company said Thursday. Peter Rice, president of specialty-film division Fox Searchlight, will take over Mr. Liguori's role, reporting to Mr. Vinciquerra.
A management reshuffle had been expected following the announcement more than two weeks ago that Mr. Chernin will leave News Corp. when his contract expires this summer. News Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch has said he will oversee the Los Angeles-based businesses when Mr. Chernin departs, but the company's existing entertainment executives were expected to be given greater responsibility.
"This new creative structure will enable us immediately to operate more efficiently," Mr. Murdoch said in a staff memo. "We will remove unnecessary barriers that have existed between our businesses."
Executives at News Corp., which owns Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones & Co., have pushed for greater cooperation among its businesses, which also include satellite-television businesses in Europe, a stable of newspapers in the U.K. and Australia, local TV stations in the U.S. and the MySpace social-networking site.
Messrs. Gianopulos, Rothman and Vinciquerra are a collective stand-in for Mr. Chernin, who has been in his post for more than 12 years, holding together a diverse group of businesses and executives in Los Angeles. Mr. Chernin is exiting amid rising challenges for movie and television businesses as the faltering economy deflates advertising sales for broadcast television and local-TV stations, and as DVD sales -- the major profit center for film companies -- are slumping.
Mr. Vinciquerra had been responsible for the business side of Fox network, from advertising sales to relationships with affiliated local-TV stations. Adding the network's programming side -- including its prime-time TV lineup -- to the cable networks Mr. Vinciquerra oversees gives him responsibility for all of Fox's TV-entertainment networks, but not its cable-news outlets or TV stations, which are led by Roger Ailes.
The decision to put broadcast-network programming under an executive with a cable-heavy portfolio comes as the economic downturn is straining broadcast television's ad-supported business model. Cable networks have been hit less hard in the ad marketplace.
Mr. Rice, who has long been seen as a candidate for a more senior role, is moving over to the TV business after scoring a number of successes at Fox Searchlight, including Oscar winner "Slumdog Millionaire." Mr. Rice's deputies, Nancy Utley and Steve Gilula, will take over the reins at Fox Searchlight.
Write to Shira Ovide at firstname.lastname@example.org and Sam Schechner at email@example.com
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Setting up a website that's less than friendly to one corporate entity or another is common practice among union organizing drives these days -- StarbucksUnion.org or ReformResurrecton.org (against a Chicago hospital chain), for example. Employers, understandably aren't too fond of the tactic. One of them, in fact, recently went to court to fight it.
Cintas, the uniform company, had argued to the federal court in New York's Southern District that UNITE HERE and the Teamsters' organizing site CintasExposed.org crossed the line. (The relevant bit of law seems to the the Lanham Act, which has to do with bad-faith cybersquatting.)
In a dismissal of the case this week that the unions are hailing as important precedent, Judge William Pauley defended the unions' right to play on their adversary's brand. Cintas had argued in their "manifesto" to the court -- the Judge's word, not mine -- that it was unfair for the organizing site to link to the UNITE HERE site, because UNITEHERE.org in turn linked to unionized uniform vendors, who are, in theory, Cintas competitors. Pauley found the guilt-by-link-association argument to be a stretch, writing "the twice-removed links to a union 'store' is at least one bridge too far."
Cintas had also argued that by inclusion of their company name in its URL, CintasExposed.org was guilty of "confusing Cintas's customers, diverting customers, sales, and profits way from Cintas and portraying Cintas in a bad light to the general consuming public," Pauley tried to inject a little come on, now, here into the process. "The likelihood of confusion among consumers visiting their websites," he writes, "is implausible."
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
The Albany bound buses to the Rally For The Empire State Film Production Tax Credit depart at 6:00 a.m. SHARP.
Please contact Rachel Weiser, the on-site coordinator, if you need anything or have any questions. Her cell phone is 512.497.7492 and her other contact information is printed below.
This event will happen rain or shine!
PLEASE READ CAREFULLY SINCE THERE ARE MANY LOGISTICAL COMPONENTS.
We will provide BUSES from Manhattan at the following locations:
· 42nd & 3rd (Bus Captain Debbie Gleason 917.848.2553)
· 33rd & 8th (Bus Captain TBD)
And from --
· Steiner Studios – 15 Washington Avenue, Brooklyn Navy Yard (Bus Captain TBD)
ALL buses will be labeled "New York Tax Credit Event" in the window. "Best Trails" will be labeled on the side of the bus. Buses depart at 6:00 am SHARP.
We REALLY need 200 participants for this to be successful.
Please email me if you think you can help provide participant or could be a bus captain.
WE STILL NEED 2 BUS CAPTAINS.
WHAT: Ralley For The Empire State Film Production Tax Credit
Come join us in an 11am Truck Rally and 12 noon Press conference on the west state capitol steps on Wednesday, March 11th, 2009 to demand that the Governor and the NYS Legislature keep good paying jobs with benefits and economic development in New York State by reinvesting in the Empire State Film Production Tax Credit and making the successful program permanent.WHO:
Film and television motion picture production workers including International Brotherhood of Teamsters trucks and drivers from across the state; Tom O’Donnell, Secretary-Treasurer, Theatrical International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 817; the IATSE New York Production Locals and John Ford, President and Business Manager, Local 52, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.
March 11th, 2009 – Arrive Lincoln Park 11am SHARP
11am- Truck Rally
Noon- Press Conference
WEST State Capitol steps, Albany, New York
· The staging area for participants in Albany will be located at Lincoln Park on
the corner of Park Avenue and South Swan Street.
· All participants will depart Lincoln Park ay 11am SHARP.
· It will be a 15 minute walk from Lincoln Park to the West Capitol steps.
Please contact me (Rachel) if you can’t do the 15 minute walk.
· The Truck Rally will begin from 11am-12pm. All participants will cheer and show support for the trucks as they go around the Capitol honking before the press conference.
· The press conference will be from 12pm-1pm.
· Buses will depart back to the city at 2pm from Lincoln Park.
For any questions concerns please call Rachel Weiser at the following information:
Rachel H. Weiser, Consultant
YOST GOLD CONSULTING, INC.
701 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20004
Monday, March 9, 2009
TV Week http://www.tvweek.com
Debt-Ridden and Independent Outlets Run Most Risk
With the local advertising market in the tank, everyone knows times are tough for television stations.
The problem is that business conditions aren’t likely to get better any time soon, and that has industry executives talking about more station owners declaring bankruptcy, getting taken over by their banks or, in some cases, shutting down operations.
“There are bound to be bankruptcies in broadcasting as there are in every other industry,” said Frank Kalil of Kalil & Co., a leading station broker. “Certainly there are problems and we’re dealing with them.”
A number of stations can’t support their debt load, said Barry Baker, managing director at Boston Ventures, which owns and operates several stations in small markets.
Beyond over-leveraged operations, those in small markets without major network affiliations are at greatest risk, other broadcast executives said.
“You go much beyond the top five or six [stations in the market] and those are always very difficult,” said Tim Pecaro, founder of Bond & Pecaro, a consultancy that appraises broadcast properties. “If you don’t have one of the top four networks, or Univision or The CW, it’s a tough business. You’re dealing with fractions of the market and you’ve got to be in a pretty big market to live off the crumbs.”
Mr. Pecaro said some big markets have been hit hard as well, including previously fast-growing locations such as California, Nevada, Arizona and Florida. Industrial areas in the upper Midwest also are hurting.
“I’d hate to be running television stations in those kinds of markets today, because the floor has dropped out of advertising. Nobody knows where the bottom is,” he said.
Mr. Kalil said that in some cases, his company has been asked by owners and banks to try to sell troubled stations, but securing financing in the current economic environment is an issue.“With the current owner being overextended, with advertising revenues tightening up, it’s a matter of how long they can hold on,” he said.
But if they can’t, what happens next? There are some opportunists sitting on cash who could make a go of it where other owners have faltered.
The question then becomes, do the banks really want to run these things,” said Mr. Pecaro. “Those people who were out acquiring are generally good operators. They’re experienced operators in a once-in-a-lifetime circumstance. And who might be better to run them than these guys?”
For stations that can’t make a go of it as a traditional broadcasting business, other options are emerging with new technologies.
On a panel in January at the National Association of Television Program Executives conference, Warner Bros. Domestic Distribution President Ken Werner mentioned the possibility that the economics of the station business could lead some to go dark. That would open the door for new uses of their signal spectrum.
Amid all the bad news for stations, it’s important to note that stations still represent a profitable business proposition. While growth may stall, Mr. Kalil said most stations remain in the black.“If they can adjust, they can wait this thing out—and I truly believe that it’s a matter of waiting it out—business will improve,” he said.
“The thing about broadcasters is even though they’re going to be in a lot of trouble this year, many of them are still going to cash flow,” said Mr. Pecaro. “It’s not like the newspapers. Their fixed-cost levels are nowhere near as high. It’s just the cash flows aren’t going to be anywhere near where they were a couple of years ago.”
The list of station groups that haven’t been able to maintain adequate cash flow is growing.Last year, big station owner Tribune Co. went bankrupt. Tribune, which also owns newspapers, took on massive amounts of debt in a leveraged employee buyout masterminded by financier Sam Zell.
Equity Media Holding, which owns 31 television stations, sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December after failing to sell its stations. Young Broadcasting, which owns 10 CBS and ABC affiliates, filed for Chapter 11 last month. The company listed liabilities of more than $500 million and said the filing was designed to bring its debt in line with “current economic realities.”
Debt is a problem for many station owners. In a January report, Moody’s warned that with advertising revenue declining, “Many broadcasters will not generate the [earnings] to comply with financial covenants in bank loan agreements, cause them to require waivers and amendments or face default.”
Moody’s predicted banks will be unlikely to amend terms with very highly leveraged companies or those that are burning through cash to fund day-to-day operations, leading to more bankruptcies.
It doesn’t appear the advertising market will turn around to save struggling operators.Certainly it doesn’t seem that the advertising picture will improve any time soon to bail out local broadcasters in trouble.
BIA Advisory Services last week forecast that local advertising revenues will fall at a compounded annual rate of 1.4% from $155.3 billion in 2008 to $144.4 billion in 2013. Traditional media, which lumps in TV, radio, newspapers and direct mail, will decrease at a 4.5% rate over that period.
Representatives for media companies that own station groups and broadcast networks declined to comment.
Beyond cutting staff, local station managers are trying a number of approaches to meet the financial challenges.
A big chore is compensating for the loss of automotive advertising.
“You’re scrambling to try to make up that revenue that hasn’t come back,” said Tim Larson, general manager of KRDO-TV in Colorado Springs, Colo. Mr. Larson said a lot of auto ads come from the national side, so stations need to look locally in order to fill the shortfall. “You try to go directly to the advertiser, particularly the local guy, and say, ‘This is what we can do for you,’” he said. “And you have to sell that hard.”
That’s brought a cultural shift in his sales efforts, with more outbound calls and less order-taking from inbound calls. “It’s not that way anymore. You’ve got to get out and you’ve got to sell, you’ve got to sell a lot of stuff,” he said.
Mr. Kalil said he believes that stations can help themselves by stepping up their local ad sales efforts. “I truly believe that the solution, if there is an immediate, automatic solution, would be for every station to hire three to five more salespeople tomorrow,” Mr. Kalil said.
Other companies are looking for ways to spread cost over more stations.
Mark DeSantis, general manager of WEEK-TV in Peoria, Ind., said its owner, Granite Broadcasting, has consolidated certain operations. For example, master control operations have been combined in multistation hubs and his weekend weather is being produced in Fort Wayne and uploaded back to Peoria.
Mr. DeSantis also said he’s talking with other GMs in the area to pool resources on news coverage, for instance, sending one camera crew to gather footage.
“This is the worst business climate that we’ve seen since we’ve been in broadcasting,” he said, adding he’s confident things are going to rebound.
Reducing the number of stations in a market might also make the survivors more financially sound.
“We need duopoly. We need consolidation. There’s no question about that,” Mr. Kalil said. “There are a lot of things that we can save money on in the industry by combining these properties in a given market.”
In many markets, more duopolies can’t be formed because of Federal Communications Commission regulations. Mr. Baker thinks the industry should go even further than duopoly.
“I think ultimately there should be a move to an agency system, where stations just say we’re sharing news, we’re sharing back office, we are sharing everything, otherwise we can’t be in business,” he said. “And hopefully the new FCC will say, ‘You know what, they won’t be in business so we might have less editorial voices in local news, but at least we’ll have three separate sets of anchors.’
The prospect of stations pushing cable operators to get more money for the retransmission of local signals is unlikely to fill the void for broadcasters.
“I think we’re at a real turning point when you combine viewership lost to online video with the total financial situation and the lack of advertising,” Mr. Baker said. “All the retrans money in the world can’t make up for it.”
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
RALLY FOR NEW YORK!
MARCH 5, 2009, 4 PM, CITY HALL
Devastating budget cuts still threaten our communities, our jobs, our neighbors and our families.
Speak out for fair solutions! There is a better way!
Join union members, community groups, non-profit organizations and more to speak out against the dangerous budget proposals now being considered in Albany and City Hall.
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Tuesday, March 3, 2009
By DAVID BAUDER
NEW YORK (AP) — After talking to journalism students at Stony Brook University recently, John Houseman of New York's WPIX-TV left behind 18 new video cameras.
Houseman, assistant news director at WPIX, had enlisted students at the Long Island campus as contributors to his news operation with an investment of $119 per camera. He wants the budding journalists — as well as students at Fordham, Rutgers and New York universities — to send in material if they see something they believe to be a story.
While the program offers an opportunity for students, it has raised alarms among some professional journalists and technicians who wonder if it's the sort of thing that might one day threaten their jobs. Just like newspapers, local TV news operations are suffering mightily with the economy and disappearing advertising revenue.
Nothing that the WPIX students have shot has made the air or the station's Web site yet. Karen Scott, WPIX's news director, said she envisions them helping out in breaking news situations near where they live if the station's journalists can't quickly get there — because of a bad traffic accident, for example. She asked for contributions a couple of weeks ago when a severe wind storm swept through the area.
"It helps to have more eyes and ears around the area," she said.
The students won't be paid for their contributions.
Instead, they'll have the chance to see their work in a professional context on television or online. That's something their schoolwork can't approximate, said Marcy McGinnis, associate dean of Stony Brook's school of journalism.
"I don't feel like I'm being taken advantage of, by any means, because I'm getting something out of this," said McGinnis, a longtime CBS News executive.
By going to journalism students, WPIX theoretically adds a layer of protection against being duped. Many news organizations encourage contributions from "citizen journalists" with the proliferation of cheap cameras, and amateur video has been used to illustrate events like the U.S. Airways flight that landed in the Hudson River. The threat of doctored video is always there if you don't know the source.
Joseph Angotti, a former NBC News executive who's now a journalism instructor at Monmouth College, said he's aware of other programs across the country where student contributions are solicited.
"It's kind of the future," he said. "As a professor I think it's a grand idea because it's giving opportunities to students that they wouldn't have had before. But I'm not so sure if I were the executive producer of the nightly news that I'd want to be relying so much on students to do it for me."
These programs might also be worrisome for professional journalists in the context of what has happened overseas.
TV networks have sharply cut back on international staffing, relying on video news services to provide pictures and less on reporters on the ground. CBS News, for example, is left now with a nominal presence in Tel Aviv and Moscow. More often, international stories are read by anchors over video.
Could this be the future for local TV stations? As the economy has soured, the biggest trend there has been the shedding of expensive talent contracts, and actual newscasts may be next.
On a national level, ABC News last fall began a partnership with Arizona State, Syracuse, Florida, North Carolina and Texas universities to set up news bureaus where students can be trained and contribute content. They've already done a lot of work online, and student contributions were used for "Good Morning America" stories on innovative ways students are cheating and how the economy is affecting colleges.
This month ABC expanded it with a "roving reporter" initiative online, allowing college students anywhere to pitch and potentially do stories under the network's guidance.
Jim Joyce, sector vice president for NABET-CWA, which represents 10,000 broadcast technicians, camera operators, reporters and producers, said the union negotiated terms with ABC on its program and supports the attempt to interest young people in news.
But he's worried about the student journalism efforts at a local level eventually costing jobs. Viewers should be concerned about people "who are less than qualified journalists" gathering news and making editorial decisions, he said.
No staff cutbacks are planned at WPIX, Scott said. The student journalists are considered strictly supplemental, she said.
On the Net:
Monday, March 2, 2009
LOS ANGELES--One hundred union members and their supporters rallied and marched at the Los Angeles Times newspaper headquarters February 23 to protest management's union-busting tactics and retaliatory campaign against pressroom workers.
Since the first collective bargaining agreement of the pressroom workers--members of the newly formed Local 140-N of the Graphic Communications Conference/International Brotherhood of Teamsters (GCC/IBT)--was ratified in December at the notoriously anti-union newspaper, the 250 men and women who run the presses have been subject to a campaign of daily harassment, deteriorating safety and targeting of union supporters for discipline and termination.
Press workers are being disproportionately targeted in ongoing cuts at the Times-- 63 pressroom employees are slated for termination in this latest round--and being offered severance packages of a few weeks instead of the up to eight months reportedly being offered to other (non-union) employees and supervisors.
The workers voted for Teamsters representation in January 2007 to fight the ongoing cuts called for by the Tribune Company, owner of the Times since 2000. It was the first time workers in the pressroom had union representation since 1970.
They ratified their contract in December 2008, and now are being targeted by billionaire owner Sam Zell, who bought the Tribune Company in April 2007. Zell slashed jobs and filed for the safety of bankruptcy protection as workers were ratifying their contract.
Local 140-N President Ronnie Pineda explained, "Most of us have been working for decades here. We're saying treat us with the equality and fairness we deserve. They can spend hundreds of millions for baseball players [the Tribune Company also owns the Chicago Cubs], but have to get rid of us? It doesn't add up."
James has worked at the Times for 25 years. As he said:
We're tired of being pounded on because we're pro-union. We worked hard for years, giving our best. With the cuts over the past few years, we're under a lot of pressure to get it out with less and less people--and this is what you get. We're all just a number to them. It's not just 63 jobs, it's 63 families that are being cut.
Pressroom workers were joined at the rally by GCC/IBT Local 404, Teamsters Local 396, Iron Workers Local 416 and members of the Service Employees International Union. The union has filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board, and is planning for future actions.
Note: Similar behavior by management at Tribune's flagship television station, WPIX, has greatly increased the level of stress for workers at this famous New York TV station.
Broadcast engineers at the station say that WPIX has always operated with fewer engineers than are necessary for safe operations, resulting in numerous on the job injuries over the years. The company's excuse is always: "The IBEW Local 1212 contract at WPIX has no minimum staffing requirement." Now they are cutting back further.
60 shifts per week have already been eliminated from the weekly engineering schedule at WPIX, cutting the equivalent of 12 full time positions at the station by eliminating freelancers. Staff layoffs loom as everyone waits for the other shoe to drop.
Master control has been cut from a three to a two person crew, remote trucks are now one man bands, and the company's idea of shared jurisdiction only works in one direction, they take our editing and server operator work away, but refuse to share their writing and producing work with IBEW engineers.
WPIX went from four screening shifts a day to two, and the remaining screeners often work through meals and breaks, come in early and/or stay late without compensation, in order to finish the assigned work.
Broken chairs; filthy vents blowing cold air directly on engineers; single maintenance men running cable, leaving open holes in the floor unattended; are the rule, rather than the exception.
Complaints to management and human resources fall on deaf ears. Multiple violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) have been reported to HR and been scoffed at and ignored.
Recently, Sal Marchiano picked up a newspaper and read he had "retired" from his job as nightly sports anchor for WPIX-TV, a position he held for 14 years. This was like a living, breathing somebody reading his obituary.
"Sal made a decision to retire at the end of this year, and last week was Sal's last week on the air as our sports anchor," a WPIX-TV spokeswoman told the Daily News at the time.
Long time AFTRA member, Marchiano, who for 41 years (at Channels 2, 7 & 11), provided highlights, wisecracks and sarcasm to those inclined to "keep it where it is," chuckled at the notion he had decided to call it quits. "Reports about my retirement were - and are - inaccurate," Marchiano said.
It's bad enough not to have your contract renewed, but to have the company attempt to damage Sal's ability to work elsewhere by falsely announcing his retirement, is disgraceful by any measure.
Tribune is cutting operating costs at all their newspapers and TV stations.
To that end, Tribune and Local TV Holdings combined the operations of their stations in Denver and St. Louis.
In Denver, the agreement combines Local TV owned FOX affiliate KDVR and Tribune's KWGN. In St. Louis, Tribune's KPLR and Local TV owned FOX affiliate, KTVI, will share services. The two stations in each city will locate in the same facility, use combined news operations, and share certain programming.
In Philadelphia, Tribune owned WTXF first began sharing ENG video footage and helicopter services with NBC affiliate WCAU, then subcontracted the entire news operation to the NBC affiliate, leaving only 7 IBEW represented engineers to run and maintain Tribune's master control at WTXF.
Tribune Broadcasting announced recently that it will combine the facilities and staff of its 24-hour cable news station, CLTV, with their own WGN-TV.
Will this happen in New York? We don't know, but consider the following:
The CW Network already airs out of the CBS Broadcast Center and NBC has already done a deal with Tribune in Philadelphia, so either would be a good fit for them, if Tribune decided go the consolidation route.
They could also automate the studio news operation, combining audio, video, robotics, server, graphics, DA, TD, and director into one awful job. This would eliminate 7 more IBEW Local 1212 represented job categories.
The company could consolidate the master control for all 23 stations into Indianapolis, much like CNN does in Atlanta and eliminate local master control at WPIX altogether.
Could any of these things actually happen at WPIX?
But, to quote an old horror film, "Something evil this way comes."