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Instant Replay: What’s In Your Future?

Since this month’s Sports TV Production section is focusing on instant replay systems, I’m also going to follow the same theme...and review what just happened. Just for fun, we’ll pause the playback and peek at what should be in your future, too!

Consider what occurred in the past year in TV:

—Telephone companies are testing the waters of video distribution with Verizon’s FIOS service.

—DVR/PVR penetration increases to as much as 12% of US homes.

—Scientific-Atlanta was bought by Cisco (IPTV, anyone?).

—Cell phone mobile video grows (remember the subway bombing videos out of London in July?) as both a record and playback medium.

—Same-day streaming of The NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams is now online.

— Next-day downloading availability of select ABC primetime programs is occurring through the ABC/iTunes deal.

—Analog broadcast signals shutoff is now slated for February 16, 2009.

Scary, huh? But, I’ve always been an optimist. Not only is the glass half-full, but the waiter will be by any moment to fill it up! You can choose to share my outlook, or be a pessimist (some say realist). But if you think we’ve had a tough year, consider our media brethren in newspaper, the Yellow Pages, and in radio. Let’s look at their woes:

—Loss of Classifieds revenue to competitors such as

—Continued decline of paid subscriber base.

—Loss of display ads from department stores, who opt to use pre-prints & FSI’s instead.

—Emphasis on readership vs. circulation, in an effort to improve their story to advertisers.

Here’s how my newspaper is changing: I just watched video of a Buffalo Bills (NFL) press conference at the website of my local (Gannett-owned) newspaper. This shouldn’t come as a big shock; lots of newspapers are partnering with TV stations these days to offer resources outside the norm. But this video didn’t come from a TV station in my market—it came from a Gannett-owned television station in Buffalo, which is 90 miles away, in a different DMA from my own.

—Online and local search competitors growing.

—Niche directories.

—Preparing for the day when there is no printed book.

—Revenue flat for past two years.

—Popular personalities move to or align with satellite radio (Howard Stern, Bob Dylan).

—XM hits five million subscribers; Sirius tops two million.

—iPods & Podcasts become “must have” / “must do” entities.

—Reduced commercial avails (the “less is more” Clear Channel initiative).

—Other recorded audio services grow (,, etc.).

2006 is here. If you’re still crying in your beer because your TV station’s net weekly circulation dropped below 80% of the market in 2005, then get out of the business now! The rest of us have work to do.

That’s because I’m focused on one undeniable fact: local businesses still need both new customers and returning business from existing customers.

With that in mind, when’s the last time you asked your major advertisers to define their unique selling proposition? I know this sounds “old school,” but consider this response from Steve Cone, author of the upcoming Steal These Ideas! Marketing Secrets That Will Make You a Star, when asked, “What is the biggest mistake marketers make?” He said, “They deliver the same visual, verbal and written messages as their competitors.”

Does that sound familiar? Go watch TV, listen to the radio, or read the paper... and it will.

Television advertising still has the power to make a big difference...and affect the success of an advertiser’s business. We also have a new tool to work with: online advertising. With TV station websites now reaching, on average, 10-15% of a market’s population (or more) each week, we have the ability to help grow the business of a new sector of companies.

Face it, there’s a minimum dollar expenditure that needs to be made in any broadcast medium for the ad campaign to have an impact. That dollar amount varies based upon market size, of course. Honest, responsible media salespeople know when to say to an advertising prospect “ your money. When you can put that budget towards one month, rather than six months, I can help”.

With online advertising resources at our disposal, we can accommodate advertisers NOW who have modest budgets...all while delivering quantifiable results! In addition, the future growth in popularity of our sites doesn’t have to affect their affordability. When you grow your 6 a.m. news viewing by 25%, you raise your rates accordingly, because you have no additional inventory to sell. You have more viewers, but no one magically added any sellable minutes to the hour.

In the online world, if you increase your page views / impressions by 25%, you have...more inventory, by default! That fact, coupled with the growing number of online advertising success stories, should be more than enough to make online revenue growth a priority for your station in 2006.

Yes, we’ve seen a wave of change over the past year. That’s no reason to wave the white flag and surrender! Use these events to your advantage. Perhaps it’s time to initiate a conversation with an existing advertising client, as you seek to establish and promote what makes them special. Or call an old prospect who couldn’t justify the expense of a previous proposal, but could now afford an online option. Either way, 2006 still has the potential to be your best year ever.

Jeffrey Ulrich is the new business development manager at WHEC, Rochester, NY. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the position of HBI, Inc. He can be reached through his website,, or at