I spoke to a friend early this evening. Known him a long time. High level manager in my business. We commiserated about where TV has gone.
The landscape has changed. I started on TV two months after CNN began. Cable competition was virtually non-existent.
It was impossible to run a network affiliated television station and not make bags of money! With less competition, fewer large corporate owners and ‘guaranteed’ money, TV stations were run more for the public’s good.
We did things because we wanted to be good citizens of our community. Stations that understood this best were often the most successful. Which came first? Success or understanding?
I’m not saying stations weren’t out to make a buck. It was just a lot easier. There wasn’t Wall Street’s pressure to scoop up every penny.
In 1980 a single entity could own seven stations. Period. End of story. Now you can own signals which cover nearly 40% of the nation.
If you bought a station you had to, by law, hold onto it for three full years. How quaint.
It’s all different now. TV is a business of large corporations with the same hometown loyalty as WalMart or McDonalds. Their business models are totally based upon financial results. Being the best isn’t part of the equation. If you can do it fine, but never at the expense of profit.
Walk into a TV studio today and you’ll see robotic cameras. Lots of jobs have been automated away. Many reporters shoot their own stories. And everyone works for less.
And with lots more competition for skilled employees the competence level has dropped. My first 11pm producer at Channel 8 in New Haven came from the network. My last producer came from college.
The good old days aren’t coming back. There will never be falling bags of money nor enough employees to fill the parking lot.
This is actually one of the reasons what’s being done in Nebraska is so exciting. They are truly local stations firmly rooted in the community and owned/run by locals.
Who knows what position, if any, TV stations will take in the next decade.