NXST » Topics » Competition in the Television Industry

This excerpt taken from the NXST 10-K filed Mar 15, 2005.

Competition in the Television Industry

 

Competition in the television industry takes place on several levels: competition for audience, competition for programming (including news) and competition for advertisers. Additional factors that are material to a television station’s competitive position include signal coverage and assigned frequency. The broadcasting industry is continually faced with technological change and innovation, the possible rise in popularity of competing entertainment and communications media, and governmental restrictions or actions of federal regulatory bodies, including the FCC and the Federal Trade Commission, any of which could have a material effect on our operations.

 

Audience. Stations compete for viewership generally against other leisure activities in which one could choose to engage rather than watch television. Broadcast stations compete for audience share specifically on the basis of program popularity, which has a direct effect on advertising rates. A portion of the daily programming on the NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox and UPN affiliated stations that we own or provide services to is supplied by the network with which each station is affiliated. In those periods, the stations are dependent upon the performance of the network programs in attracting viewers. Stations program non-network time periods with a combination of self-produced news, public affairs and other entertainment programming, including movies and syndicated programs purchased for cash, cash and barter, or barter only.

 

Through the 1970s, network television broadcasting enjoyed virtual dominance in viewership and television advertising revenue because network-affiliated stations competed only with each other in most local markets. However, the development of methods of video transmission other than over-the-air broadcasting, and in particular the growth of cable television, has significantly altered competition for audience share in the television industry. In addition, DBS providers, such as DirecTV and EchoStar, offer nationwide distribution of video programming (including, in some cases, pay-per-view programming and programming packages unique to DBS) using small receiving dishes and digital transmission technology. These other transmission methods can increase competition for a broadcasting station by bringing into its market distant broadcasting signals not otherwise available to the station’s audience. Other sources of competition include home entertainment systems, such as VCRs, DVDs and television game devices. Transmission of video programming over broadband Internet may be a future source of competition to television broadcasters.

 

Although cable television systems were initially used to retransmit broadcast television programming to subscribers in areas with poor broadcast signal reception, significant increases in cable television penetration and cable programming services occurred throughout the 1970s and 1980s in areas that did not have signal reception problems. As the technology of satellite program delivery to cable systems advanced in the late 1970s, development of programming for cable television accelerated dramatically, resulting in the emergence of multiple, national-scale program alternatives and the rapid expansion of cable television and higher subscriber growth rates. Historically, cable operators have not sought to compete with broadcast stations for a share of the local news audience. Recently, however, certain cable operators have elected to compete for these audiences and the increased competition could have an adverse effect on our advertising revenue.

 

Further advances in technology may increase competition for household audiences and advertisers. The increased use of digital technology by cable systems and DBS, along with video compression techniques, will reduce the bandwidth required for television signal transmission. These technological developments are applicable to all video delivery systems, including over-the-air broadcasting, and have the potential to provide vastly expanded programming to highly targeted audiences. Reductions in the cost of creating additional channel capacity could lower entry barriers for new channels and encourage the development of increasingly specialized “niche” programming. This ability to reach very narrowly defined audiences is expected to alter the competitive dynamics for advertising expenditures. We are unable to predict the effect that these or other technological changes will have on the broadcast television industry or on the future results of our operations or the operations of the stations we provide services to.

 

Programming. Competition for programming involves negotiating with national program distributors or syndicators that sell first-run and rerun packages of programming. Stations compete against in-market broadcast station operators for exclusive access to off-network reruns (such as Seinfeld) and first-run product (such as Entertainment Tonight) in their respective markets. In addition, stations are competing against other networks with respect to first-run programming. The broadcast networks are rerunning the same episode of a network program on affiliated cable or broadcast networks, often in the same week that it aired on a local station. Cable systems generally do not compete with local stations for programming, although various national cable networks from time to time have acquired programs that would have otherwise been offered to local television stations. AOL Time Warner, Inc., General Electric Company, Viacom Inc., The News Corporation Limited and the Walt Disney Company each owns a television network and also owns or controls major production studios, which are the primary source of programming for the networks. It is uncertain whether in the future such programming, which is generally subject to short-term agreements between the studios and the networks, will be moved to the networks. Television broadcasters also compete for non-network programming unique to the markets they serve. As such, stations strive to provide exclusive news stories, unique features such as investigative reporting and coverage of community events and to secure broadcast rights for regional and local sporting events.

 

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Table of Contents

Advertising.   In addition to competing with other media outlets for audience share, stations compete for advertising revenue with:

 

    other television stations in their respective markets; and

 

    other advertising media such as newspapers, radio stations, magazines, outdoor advertising, transit advertising, yellow page directories, direct mail, local cable systems and the Internet.

 

Competition for advertising dollars in the broadcasting industry occurs primarily within individual markets. Generally, a television broadcasting station in a particular market does not compete with stations in other market areas.

 

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