LocalNewser standupkid's dispatches from the frontlines of local news


Murdoch's "Secret Plan" to… Charge for Content! Gasp! Shivers!

Tina's Beast: Does She Read This Stuff?

Wow.  Talk about your no-brainers.  The Daily Beast's Stryker McGuire (wasn't that a failed show on ABC in the late 70s about a former cop who pairs up with an ex-con or something?) reports today that he "has learned" through "sources" that News Corp. "has tasked a global team--reporting directly to the 78-year-old media mogul--with creating a model to charge for online content."

Cut to:  me staring, waiting for the news in any of this.  Right.  And?

Mr. McGuire's reporting, complete with breathless late 40's style writing gives us this:  "Now, The Daily Beast has learned, Murdoch's News Corp. has set up a global team (you said that part already, Stryker), based in New York, London, and Sydney (okay, that's in line with "global"), to create a system for charging for online content in an environment where consumers have come to expect to get it for free."

I am so not making this up.

He continues:  "According to a knowledgeable source, the team is said to be 'looking at hardware' to deliver the content in a 'user friendly way'--a prospect that will surely catch the attention of the developers of Amazon's Kindle and the Sony Reader."

Oh man.  If The Daily Beast thinks this is newsworthy--and moreso, deserving of being peppered with trite "has learned" and "according to sources" filler, well, they're a lot further back on the media curve than I thought.

News Corp.:  Still Interested in Making Money?  Never!

News Corp.: Still Interested in Making Money? Never!

A global news organization "tasking a team" to "find a way" to "charge for content?"  Heavens! Who would've thought?  I figured Murdoch was tasking teams to refine the printing press and dispatching task forces into the wilds of Asia to find the next Sudoku.  

For the record, any major (or minor) media company that isn't thinking about a new financial model is a ship that will soon be known as an "underwater reef" suitable for divers and coral.  But then what do I know?  I also poo-poohed this story I read on The Daily Beast last week about TDK tasking a team to look into a new model for recording audio beyond the cassette tape (which will surely catch the attention of the makers of Sony's blockbuster Walkman music player!).


WSJ: Local Stations' Cutbacks May Be Tip of Iceberg: "Major Cuts" Ahead to Stay Alive

Disturbing Interactive WSJ Interactive Graphic

Disturbing Interactive WSJ Interactive Graphic

The financial model that made local television a money-printing machine and made local GMs the toast of affiliate gatherings with network execs eager to impress appears to be dead or dying, with a "fuzzy future" on the horizon, according to a bleak report in this morning's Wall Street Journal:  "Now, with their viewership in decline and ad revenue on a downward spiral, many local TV stations face the prospect of being cut out of the picture. Executives at some major networks are beginning to talk about an option that once would have been unthinkable: eventually taking shows straight to cable, where networks can take in a steady stream of subscriber fees even in an advertising slump."
According to WSJ, local station ad revenue is projected to fall 20%-30% in 2009, and last week Walt Disney Co. "reported a 60% slide in operating income in its broadcast segment, including ABC and 10 ABC-owned stations, for the quarter ended December 31st, in part because of a 15% drop in revenue at its TV stations."  FOX owner News Corp reported staggering losses last week, and indicated its 17 stations would undergo "major cost-cutting in the coming 12 months" after a 30% decline in ad revenue.
WSJ Chart

WSJ Chart

The once booze and party fueled relationship between local station and network seems to be chilly at best, and local news isn't exactly flooding stations with dollars to make up the difference.  The WSJ predicts fewer stations will be doing news at all in the next few years, driven out of the marketplace because there's just too much product out there:  "Stations have pulled the plug entirely on some news shows in Lexington, Ky., and Yakima, Wash. In November, some stations owned by News Corp. and NBC Universal said they would begin pooling their newsgathering resources.


Station owners say even with these cuts, there are more local newscasts than the market can bear. "Over time, there will be fewer players," says Dunia Shive, chief executive of Belo Corp., which owns 20 local stations covering 14% of the U.S. market."

The article is not easy reading, but mandatory nonetheless.  The entire piece can be found here.


FOX O&O Layoff Watch: News Corp Reports Massive $6.4 Billion Dollar Loss; Local Stations Declined 44%

The breeze you may have felt along Sixth Avenue Thursday was the massive gasp at the numbers emanating from News Corp headquarters, where the financial report was down, and decidedly so:  "News Corporation had income of $320 million, or 12 cents a share, significantly below the Wall Street expectations. Analysts had forecast earnings of 19 cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters," reported the New York Times.  

News Corp titan Rupert Murdoch telling the paper: “Our results for the quarter are a direct reflection of the grim economic climate,” he said. “While we anticipated a weakening, the downturn is more severe and likely longer-lasting than previously thought.”

The next shoe to drop may be in the newsrooms at FOX O&O's, starting on the Upper East Side in New York.  According to the Times, "The company’s local television stations had a 44 percent decline, 'reflecting a significant overall weakening of the local advertising markets despite increased political advertising revenues,' the company said in a statement."  That, kids, sounds like the kind of statement that preceeds another round of cost-cutting, and word from New York tonight indicates at least one well-known Fox 5 face has already left the building at WNYW's E. 67th Street studios.

Developing...we will post details on the latest layoff at WNYW as soon as we can confirm the details.  Expect an update here on the site overnight or early Friday morning, though the standard bio scrub has already happened on the Fox 5 website.


Superstarr Blog Love-Postie Style-from NYP's Michael Starr

nypmasthead2Standupkid's localtvnews gets a nice mention in today's Starr Report column in the New York Post, and that's real estate that a novice blogger like myself can just not afford to pay for:  "Site seeing: (they DO love their puns at the Post) Ex-Ch. 5 reporter Mark Joyella, who's now at WPLG in Miami, has started a local news-centric Web site," Starr reports--in the very same column where he has news on former WVTM/Birmingham colleague and friend Rene Syler (most recently on the CBS Early Show) has landed a hosting gig for a new show.

So thanks very much for the mention, Michael;  and congratulations, Rene!

DISCLOSURE:  I have done freelance reporting for the New York Post (most recently yesterday), and have on at least one occasion made chitchat with Michael in the Post break room.  Also, as he mentioned, I previously worked at Post-owner News Corp's NYC station, WNYW.