At 12:17 PM -0800 12/24/06, John Willkie wrote:
I believe I answered this in advance. Local-into-local in 1999 "unleashed" the DBS business; access to local channels provides much of the draw for cable.
The DBS business already had 10 million subs before they began to offer Local-into-local in major markets. But this does not diminish the importance of the broadcast networks as part of the overall TV landscape. Many of the first ten million lived in rural areas where cable was not available, and OTA service was either poor or non-existent. Fortunately, this means that they could qualify for the network east and west coast stations (New York and LA.). Local meant nothing to these subscribers - in fact, like many others who managed to get the network feeds from the coasts using pirated smart cards, they preferred this arrangement.
Why? Because it gave them two shots at watching the network programs.This notion that "localism" is important is tied directly the the market model we use in the U.S. , and the protectionism of those markets. The reality is that the content is the same in every market, with the exception of news, and the occasional public affairs program. The stuff people really want is coming from the networks, and program syndicators.
When it comes down to the wire on a retransmission consent agreement, the station typically picks a time of year when they have the most leverage. If the network carries football, chances are good that they will threaten to withhold their signal during football season. And to be fair, there are still enough high quality first run programs on the networks to keep people interested, even if they watch non broadcast channels most of the time.
Bottom line, if people could get the localized info they need, they could care less if the station is operated locally. The weather channel has been doing this since it started, with a computer at each cable head end to handle the local inserts. Sinclair demonstrated how easy it is to make news and weather stories look like they are local, despite the fact that many of these stories came from the News Central studios in Maryland.
Our "local Fox affiliate (in Ocala) is operated by Meredith Broadcasting from studios in Lake Mary, where they run a triopoly that includes the Orlando market. Left to the marketplace to decide, we would see broadcasting consolidate into a handful of regional operations centers where "localized" content would be generated and inserted into the various feeds to the local transmitters.
But the marketplace is not allowed to work in one of the most important aspects of modern society - the ability to control the flow of information to the masses.
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