There’s a big headline, in red, on Drudge tonight: “CBSNEWS IN TALKS TO CONTRACT OUT REPORTING TO CNN.” It’s actually just a link to a New York Times story which says CBS is thinking of outsourcing much of its news gathering.
I’m not sure what’s going on in my business all of a sudden. I suspect it’s not good.
Last week CBS started taking a hatchet to it’s owned and operated TV stations. For five decades, these O&O properties have been cash cows. No more.
Anchors and reporters, people whose services were fought over a few years ago, were dismissed without a blink. Some of these folks were making seven figure salaries. All were household names in their own communities.
For example, in Minneapolis, meteorologist Paul Douglas was let go. Paul had been in the market over twenty years. If he wasn’t making a half million a year, he had to be close.
He was gone before he could say goodbye.
Writing in an online bulletin board for meteorologists, a former on-air met said:
I’m not sure I’m ready to go that far, but the business has changed. My competition isn’t just the local stations, or The Weather Channel (always a minor player in the general scheme of things), but weather.com, wunderground.com and every website with a forecast… which seems to be all of them.
The value of high profile talent, people who could draw an audience to a station, seems to have dropped rapidly. If these CBS firings have little or no negative impact on ratings, other managers will be emboldened to chop away too.
The Internet has changed many expectations. That’s fine, and as it should be.
The Internet has freed information from a schedule. Virtually everything is available on demand. And, at the moment, the Internet reports the news without reporters, shows video without production staffs, and sells products without stores. Companies that pay people say, “why?”
If at some point the Internet drives newspapers and TV stations out of business, where exactly will local news come from?
The Internet resembles the oxpecker, an African bird that lives on rhinoceroses.
The problem with the Internet is, it’s tough for conventional businesses to compete with something being given away for free! The entire cost/revenue structure of the Internet is crazy compared to traditional businesses.
Last year, Google had $16 billion revenue with 18,000 employees. That’s around $900,000 revenue per employee. Their ‘real’ operating expenses were only $2.7 billion, with another $2.1 billion thrown in for research and development. Their pre-tax net was close to $6 billion.
Is Google or Craigslist responsible for what’s going on to newspapers and broadcasting? Maybe. Maybe it’s the appearance of hundreds of channels, each with a tiny audience… but it’s tiny times hundreds!
Maybe it’s the Wal*Mart’ing of America; the disappearance of hundreds of stores in favor of one… and the disappearance of hundreds of local advertisers as well.
It’s not one thing. It’s a variety of things, but they’re reaching critical mass.
At the moment, you can buy two shares of Journal Register (publisher of the New Haven Register and other papers) stock for about the same price as a copy of its newspapers!
Journal Register just announced they’re exploring their ‘options’. I don’t know a lot about finance, but is there anything left to sell?
Sam Zell, who heavily leveraged his recent purchase of the gigantic Tribune Corporation, is now rumored to be selling some of their papers. That’s something he originally said he wasn’t going to do. He needs the cash to pay the debt.
The funny thing is, newspapers, radio and TV stations still make a lot of money, as long as you don’t factor in the financing used to buy them. Many were purchased at what now looks like inflated prices. The assumption was their value (and revenues) would rise. It’s similar to what’s gone on in the housing market.
Tonight on IM, a friend in the business said
In a way, I’m glad you are at this stage of this career and this isn’t happening in 1980.
You have many things you can do
Again, I think that’s a little heavy on the melodrama, but times are definitely tough.
I am very lucky to be under contract right now.