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Stephen Arnold Music Selling Original Documentary to Local Stations

At least 64 local stations across the country will be celebrating Black History Month in February 2015 with an original documentary called The Journey – 450 Years of the African-American Experience, created by Stephen Arnold Music’s new branding division, Sam2.

This is the first time the music production company is dipping its toe in original content, and it looks like it’s already paid off. With local stations more cash-strapped than ever, it’s no wonder they’re looking elsewhere for original content to boost their ratings. Could this be a trend for small stations in the future? Sam2′s syndication success suggests so.

The company originally created the documentary for the city of St. Augustine, Fla, since it focuses on the role that free African-Americans played in the founding of the city. The doc is now being syndicated to stations across the country. Some are airing it as a “special,” while others are using edited versions of it as part of their show. Stations also have the option of buying The Journey and giving it to local schools for free.

“We are extremely proud to present ‘The Journey – 450 Years of the African-American Experience’ as the first Sam2 production,” Chad Cook, vice president and creative director of Stephen Arnold Music, said in a statement. “This enlightening documentary perfectly embodies the promise of Sam2: provide stations with a unique resource to engage their viewers, and can connect with their community in powerful new ways.”

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Broadcasters Warn Lawmakers Over Concerns About STAVRA

broadcastersThe Hill reports, representatives of ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX affiliates wrote to the Senate Commerce Committee to warn that despite the loss of “Local Choice” from the bill, STAVRA still has elements that “would undermine free access … to high quality national network and local broadcast television programming.”

In particular, the stations are concerned about changes made to the system for beaming broadcast channels onto people’s cable and satellite packages, known as “retransmission consent” agreements.

The bill, they wrote, “asserts unprecedented extension of [Federal Communications Commission] regulatory authority over private marketplace negotiations” and unfairly singles out broadcast companies for new limits. Read more

A La Carte Dropped from STAVRA Bill

tv_304Deadline Hollywood reports broadcasters may be breathing a bit easier this week after a provision allowing consumers to pick which broadcast networks they want to pay for, called “Local Choice,” has been dropped from the Satellite Television Access and Viewers Rights bill.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WVa.) and John Thune (R-SD) agreed to remove the a la carte provision from the bill, saying it deserves more discussion.

The National Association of Broadcasters, which led the opposition, said it’s “thankful” that the committee recognized “the unintended negative consequences this measure would have had on localism, broadcasters and our millions of viewers.” It feared that stations would lose revenue if satellite customers could decline to pay for them — perhaps by supplementing their pay TV service with an antenna to pick up local over-the-air signals for free.

National Journal boils down both sides of the issue nicely.

The proposal wouldn’t have affected cable channels like ESPN, but it would have required broadcast networks like Fox, NBC, and CBS to set individual prices for their channels. Consumers could then choose which ones they wanted to pay for in an “a la carte” pricing system instead of the channels being part of larger bundles.

Supporters of Local Choice argued it could have helped consumers cut their skyrocketing cable bills.

But broadcasters launched a lobbying blitz against the proposal, warning it would limit access to local news during emergencies. They also argued that it would be unfair to impose an “a la carte” system on local broadcast stations but not little-watched cable channels like TruTV. Read more

Fox Television Stations Close Deal with Google and Vindico

Fox-2Fox Television Stations have closed a deal with Google’s DoubleClick Ad Exchange and Vindico to monetize web videos across their O&O group. The Fox Television Stations say they will now have the power to target their ads to specific segments of their online audience.

“Our partnership with Google and Vindico will bring impactful, brand-safe local impressions to a broader marketplace, ”Joe Oulvey, executive vice president of Fox stations sales, said in a statement.

“We’re excited about the promise of programmatic technology to dramatically grow the marketplace for premium video, display and mobile,” added Laurent Cordier, managing director of partner business solutions at Google. “Having top-tier players like Fox TV embrace this model is great for the entire ecosystem, and we’re happy to partner with them as they make this shift.”

TV is For Your Golden Years

tvset_304The Washington Post reports a study by media analyst Michael Nathanson of Moffett Nathanson Research reveals watching “your programs” on TV is for old people, while the internet is for the youngsters.

The median age of a broadcast or cable television viewer during the 2013-2014 TV season was 44.4 years old, a 6 percent increase in age from four years earlier. Audiences for the major broadcast network shows are much older and aging even faster, with a median age of 53.9 years old, up 7 percent from four years ago.

These television viewers are aging faster than the U.S. population, Nathanson points out. The median age in the U.S. was 37.2, according to the U.S. Census, a figure that increased 1.9 percent over a decade. So to put that in context of television viewing, he said TV audiences aged 5 percent faster than the average American. Read more

Gannett to Split Broadcasting and Newspaper Businesses

gannett logoIn the third such transaction in less than a week, Gannett is the latest company to announce it is splitting its publishing and broadcasting businesses into two separate companies. Speculation of the breakup has been brewing since earlier this year, when Bloomberg reported Gannett was one of the last media holdouts to shed its slower-growing publishing business.

Gannett’s Broadcasting and Digital company, which has yet to be named, will remain headquartered in McLean, Virginia, and will trade on the NYSE. Gracia Martore will continue as CEO.

Earlier this year, Gannett announced it was acquiring the 6-station London Broadcasting portfolio for $215 million. That came just months after it completed the acquisition of the 20-station Belo TV station group for $2.2 billion. Belo itself had split its TV and newspaper businesses in 2007.

“These acquisitions, combined with our successful initiatives over the past 2-1/2 years to strengthen our Publishing business, make this the right time for a separation into two market-leading companies,” Martore said. The deal is expected to be complete by mid-2015.  Read more

GAO Says FCC Needs More Data Before Regulating Shared Service Agreements

FCC_304The U.S. Government Accountability Office published a report saying the FCC doesn’t have enough information to regulate shared service agreements.

In its report, the GAO wrote, “FCC does not collect data and has not completed a review on the prevalence of agreements, how they are used, or their effects on its policy goals and media ownership rules.”

The report said the agreements pit cable and satellite providers and consumer groups against station group owners, with cable and satellite providers saying the deals contribute to higher rates for consumers while consumer groups say shared services agreements dilute the quality of news in local markets.

The GAO said reports were mixed on the actual effects of the agreements “because the [retrans] negotiations are subject to nondisclosure agreements, and there is no data source identifying which stations participate in agreements.”

The report concludes by telling the FCC it “should determine whether it needs to collect additional data to understand the prevalence and context of broadcast agreements and whether broadcaster agreements affect its media policy goals of competition, localism, and diversity.”

Deadline Hollywood

Study: A Vanilla Year for Local TV Staffers

pew facts salariesThe Pew Research Center showed a study produced by the RTDNA and Hofstra University detailing “5 facts about the state of local TV newsrooms.”

Despite the combined $8 billion price tag of the nearly 300 stations that were bought and sold over 2013, the study showed news staff at local TV stations are being counted on to do more with less for small increases in low pay.

The study’s five main findings were:

1. Staffing levels have dropped in 2013 with larger stations getting hit the hardest.

2. While news anchor salaries dropped, meteorologist and sports anchor pay stayed the same. Reporters saw a small uptick in pay.

3. Ad revenue from newscasts accounted for 50 percent of a station’s overall revenue in 2013.

4. Slightly more newsroom budgets grew than shrank.

5. Both the number of stations airing newscasts and the number of stations not producing their own newscasts grew.

You can read the entire report by clicking here.

Will Robots Take Over Local TV?

robotWhile robots have already replaced studio camera operators at some local TV stations, it isn’t hard to imagine local stations adopting the latest technology, robotic journalists.

The AP is already using a program called Automated Insights to write business news faster than humans. USA Today reports the AP outputs out about 300 earnings stories per quarter. The new software is supposed to be able to pump out up to 4,400 stories in the same time frame.

The Huffington Post asks are human journalists screwed?

In June, Japan took the idea of robot journalism to the next level when it created the very first robot news anchor: an android that could arguably read news stories better than humans.

It’s not hard to imagine then that there would be some speculation and fear about robots coming into the newsroom practice and taking over the industry. Journalism has been named one of nine professions that humans will eventually lose to robots. The Examiner wrote that AP’s Automated Insights “will replace human journalists this month.” “Computers could soon replace Australian journalists,” the Australian also reported.

But maybe journalists shouldn’t be so afraid after all. Read more

Aereo’s Loss May Be Antenna Supplier’s Gain

aereo_304A Missouri based antenna supplier is looking to take advantage of Aereo’s recent misfortune.

Antennas Direct said it’s giving away 1000 free antennas to Aereo subscribers “as a solution to their signal loss.”

To receive a free antenna, customers must upload their last Aereo billing statement and pay $10 for shipping. They will receive the Antennas Direct ClearStream 2 Complete antenna (50+ mile range), 30 feet of coaxial cable and 20” J-Mount (MSRP $129.99).

“The Aereo Supreme Court case helps illustrate what we have said all along: local digital TV is free, offers more local channels and has a better picture quality than pay TV,” said Richard Schneider, president of Antennas Direct. “All that’s required is a simple, easy to connect antenna.”

The company said the offer is good through this Sunday July 6 or while supplies last.

[The Hill]

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