by Mark Friedrich President at Michigan Free TV Inc.
The switch to digital broadcasting and the sagging economy, may present local broadcasters their greatest opportunity in 40 years to increase market share. Digital broadcasting has effectively tripled the amount of programming content that they can provide, during a time when consumers are looking for ways to save every penny. The only question is, will they capitalize on it?
To be effective, a new mind-set and spirit of coopitition (cooperative-competition) among local broadcasters will be required. Instead of competing head-to-head for all viewers, they will have to work together to provide a variety of programming choices that will diminish the value of subscription offerings. Sure local broadcast news departments will still compete against each other, the networks will still vie for primetime viewers and they will have to be careful not to diminish or compete directly with their own primary offerings. This still leaves a lot of room to entice viewers away from “pay” TV to “free” TV. It most likely will require cooperation from the local broadcasters affiliated networks to provide what is currently “subscription only” content on a re-run or time shifted basis. Some broadcasters are already airing some pre-packaged content like RTN and This, which is better than nothing, but I don’t think that this type of programming alone will be enough for people to give up their subscriptions. The biggest reasons for maintaining subscription services, is the availability of sports, conservative news and documentary programming. All of which are readily available through affiliated networks and independent sources.
Remember, Local broadcasters have two distinct advantages that subscription services never will. They are free, and can target their content to their local demographics. You don’t have to provide content that necessarily beats that of subscription television, you just need to provide a wide enough variety of targeted content to make the additional offerings of subscription services, not worth their cost. Every household that switches from pay service to free broadcast service eliminates up to 200 channels of competition for those viewers, increasing the value of broadcast advertising time.
Local broadcasters also need to start cross promoting their own sub-channels and reminding viewers that what they are watching is available in digital clarity without a monthly subscription.
My response to Mark’s discussion on LinkedIn.com: