Thursday, December 11, 2008

CBS May Drop Affiliate TV Stations, Les Moonves Says

While Marketwatch didn't quote Les Moonves directly, this is a CBS site and it makes the news much more credible. The comment reads "that in 10 years, CBS may no longer have traditional affiliated TV stations, but could offer its feed straight to cable and satellite operators. For now, however, the network has contracts with local stations that are binding for several years." But is 10 years too soon or too long. Today, the networks are having a hard time filling their current air time. To be responsible for 24/7 programming may be a bigger financial issue than they can already afford. NBC has already announced that they are replacing 5 hours of prime time programming with Jay Leno. How would they fill the off prime hours, too?

Technology has changed the game. Already we are seeing local affiliate news teams dismiss anchors, reporters, and staff to remain lean and mean. Cable distribution will enable local advertising breaks and access to interactive applications. Local affiliates may have to either combine into more regional than local nets or morph into stand alone networks. For WCBS and others, it means negotiating a separate channel on the cable line-up from the CBS national feed.

It seems that localism is losing to regionalism. Cable companies are closing local offices to compete more regionally against their distribution rivals. Other companies are also consolidating operations to handle more activities with less labor. Technology has had a hand in this too. Need support, your phone call to a company support desk might just be handle across the continent. Where local once mattered as a competitive distinction, cost efficiencies mean regional or even global matters more. For the local TV station, Les Moonves may just be right and their days are numbered.