Future of TV News

We’re guessing that within a few years only one local television station will air a news show here in Cleveland, which will be typical for markets this size. The steady decline of viewers and ad revenue suggests this market cannot sustain four news stations. News operations are expensive. It takes many reporters, photograhers, producers and technicians to fill a half-hour or an hour-long news show. There will be one survivor. The others will carry syndicated shows, reruns, paid programming or whatever will be the fad by then.

Television is now replicating what the newspaper industry already has gone through, with cities that once supported multiple papers being reduced to one and now even the lone survivors are on life support.

Advertisers actually decide who will live and who will die. It is not necessarily survival of the fittest. Back in the 1950s and ’60s the advertisers — notably the big department stores — decided which New York papers would live and which would die by the way they placed their advertising. I can remember when New York City had eight newspapers which the advertisers categorized into upper class, middle class and lower class. For example, there were two upper class newspapers — the Times and the Herald-Tribune. To reach that class of elite consumers the stores had to advertise in two papers. The department stores wanted only one. They chose the Times. The stores advertised in the Times and boycotted the Herald Tribune. Ultimately, the middle class papers also folded and the two most common rags remain, the Post and the Daily News. In New York it’s cheaper to subsidize three newspapers than eight.

Advertising’s goal is a “saturation buy,” the one medium which reaches everybody. It’s more convenient to buy spots on one television station rather than four. But this is a two-edged sword. Convenience comes with a price. One television news show will enjoy a monopoly and the cost will go up.

It will be interesting to see which local news station here is the survivor.

* * *

A couple of weeks ago former employees of the Cleveland Press, which folded in 1982, held a 30th anniversary reunion. Actually, they do this every year and needless to say the ranks are dwindling. But 43 of them turned out for the 30th, the largest participation in several years. They are a remarkably indefatigable group. Even at their age they sizzle with pride and enthusiasm.

Arnold Miller reminisced about those days of glory in a story for the Cleveland Jewish News.

“The 30th,” Miller wrote, noting that 30 is the traditional newspaper symbol which means “the end” of a story.

-30-

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