To Earl Jones, chairman and CEO of national advertising rep firm Petry Media, the relevance of next year's DTV transition is the opportunity for broadcasters to pursue new business strategies as a result of maximizing their digital multicast service. If chosen wisely, these new game plans could dramatically expand the economic base of television by introducing an entirely new pool of businesses to the idea that television advertising is effective and affordable.
“The new digital channels are fairly inexpensive and, therefore, provide a golden opportunity for our industry to introduce people to advertising, which heretofore they could not afford,” he says.
Jones, who is delivering one of the keynote speeches during the Broadcast Engineering/Broadcasting & Cable co-produced Competitive Television Summit Feb. 5-6 in Orlando, FL, likens this opportunity to attract more advertisers with lower prices for commercials on digital multicast channels to what transpired following the FCC's decision to authorize UHF service and the rapid growth of independent stations there.
In those days, Jones was a broadcaster who built several successful independent UHF channels that eventually were purchased by large corporate owners. The secret of his success was the same thing today's broadcasters must employ to make their digital multicast channels a success: namely, bringing new advertisers to the medium of television.
“The thing that makes broadcasting so uniquely viable is that the Fifth Estate, solely among competing television media, is in a position that when we serve out local communities effectively and maintain our fiduciary trust the FCC has placed in the licensees, we succeed,” Jones says. “When we try to get down to the lowest common denominator and grovel, we abrogate a very real part of the competitiveness that we should be bringing to the marketplace.”
For example, in Jones' UHF days, he broke the 7-11 convenience store chain as first-time television advertisers by building what at the time was a unique campaign — enticing viewers to visit the stores to pick up a free pair of 3-D glasses so they could enjoy the old 3-D creature features he ran on his stations.
“We extracted $1 million in those days from a new client,” Jones says. “7-11 hadn't done anything prior to that. What I am espousing is an idea that older line group broadcasters — particularly the newspaper-based ones — may find fairly heretic. Everyone has to operate a little bit more like an independent, especially with the new digital channels. We have to be nimble and get back to basics.”
More than 20 years ago, Jones outlined those basics in the first of several Monday Memo columns he wrote over the years for Broadcasting magazine (Broadcasting & Cable's predecessor). “Jones' Five Rules for Running a Successful Television Station” are as applicable today as they were when he first wrote them in 1984.
Those rules include buying the best technology and being on the cutting edge of it; making sure you set up achievable expectations for your people; hiring the best salespeople; and maximizing and focusing on the best training available to serve your communities and your markets.
But what about the fifth rule?
“Five was actually selecting the right rep,” he says with a chuckle, “but I'm obviously not going to do anything that tells everybody to switch to Petry.”