Wednesday, May 6, 2009

With The Rough TV Economy, What On-Air Talent Will Be Cut Next?

Local broadcasters are cutting costs in the wrong places, cutting talent, their faces for their news content. Here in New York, Len Berman, a fixture in sports, was hit; in Boston, Bob Lobel, another sports announcer also let go. Across the country, anchors and reporters, like Rob Morrisson on WNBC, have been laid off left and right. Frankly, their replacements, most likely cheaper, are less appealing too. To the point that a change in talent could lead me and perhaps others to a change in where we get our local news. "But TV executives say they have no choice. Gone are the days of 50% profit margins, replaced by 20% declines in the advertising revenues that support those shows."

What is even more surprising about this cost cutting is that it actually does a disservice to the local network, especially as the need to compete with other outlets. WNBC has created a local digital hyper channel called New York Nonstop to compete with Time Warner's News 1, Cablevision's News 12, as well as the national news networks. Wouldn't a show by Len Berman on their digital network add greater credibility and value to this new brand while supporting WNBC at the same time. These local broadcasters are the faces of their content and have a built in audience. Replacing them with generic news readers does little to support the local network and even less to help build up a brand new digital network. Unfortunately "some executives have long viewed talent as interchangeable parts." This short term cost cutting will have larger negative long term effects. Viewers will simply shift viewing habits faster as they become less partial to your new roster of mediocre talent.

Yes, cost is a factor and advertising revenues are down. Perhaps we have gotten too use to obscene profits and need to adjust our mindset to a new world. Yes businesses need to remain profitable but get back to more reasonable expectations. Cutting off your nose to spite your face will definitely cause more harm than good.