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Could You Start a TV Station in 2020?


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Considering these factors:

  • Cable and streaming services, obviously.
  • How possible is it to obtain a network affiliation?
    - If the new station is only serving a portion of a larger city, how could you convince the network to allow you to be their secondary affiliate? (Like how KNTV was the Bay Area's secondary ABC affiliate serving San Jose, alongside KGO)
  • Could it be run entirely by one person; news department, ad sales, etc.?
  • The new station would have to some type of automation. But let's say the station couldn't be completely automated. For example, NBC wants all of its affiliates to immediately switch to the network feed for an impromptu presidential address. Could you control the station remotely?
  • FCC approval
  • Getting advertisers
  • Presentation.
    - How and where are you going to get a new set for newscasts (assuming the new station will run an in-house news department)
    - What will you do about your station's graphics?

 

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I will try to give an honest opinion and maybe to try and assess levels of difficulty here.

 

  • 1 hour ago, kfc513 said:

    How possible is it to obtain a network affiliation?

    I think really difficult and almost near impossible certainly if you are in a bigger market. If you are in a smaller, you might be able to swing it if you can find a network that would be willing to go with you for your startup. You have to think though in smaller markets (hmm Beaumont for example), the NBC affiliate is a digital subchannel of KBMT. 

  • 2 hours ago, kfc513 said:

    Could it be run entirely by one person; news department, ad sales, etc.?

    Depending on how much automation and how much contracting out of services are you willing to do you can run it on paper thin people wise. But by one person, nope. Maybe one person per department in a smaller market. Remember though your sales team will need a few people and also your news team will have to have maybe 10 people unless you contract it out to like what INN used to be. You could do that and have them provide the anchor/weather/sports and then maybe have two or three MMJs

  • 2 hours ago, kfc513 said:

    The new station would have to some type of automation. But let's say the station couldn't be completely automated. For example, NBC wants all of its affiliates to immediately switch to the network feed for an impromptu presidential address. Could you control the station remotely?

    Depending on affiliation yes. Plus Master Control and a lot of other functions could be contracted out. Granite broadcasting in its dying days did that by going to a group in Atlanta that did MC functions for their stations.

     

    2 hours ago, kfc513 said:

    Getting advertisers

    Depending on the sales team you have in place, this might be something way easier to do. Also depending on the market and depending on affiliation

  • 2 hours ago, kfc513 said:

    FCC approval

    Depending on what they say, could be very easy to get the approval. You might though have to start as a LP (Low Power) station to get off the ground. 

  • 2 hours ago, kfc513 said:

    Presentation.
    - How and where are you going to get a new set for newscasts (assuming the new station will run an in-house news department)
    - What will you do about your station's graphics?

    Admittedly that would probably be one of the last things.

Here is the reality. The last big station to have started from scratch was at the time Raycom's only station they had ever built and that was WMBF in 2007-2008. They made sacrifices including going all digital since the deadline was in 2009 for everyone to go digital. But they also had resources. What will this perceived stations resources be in terms of pockets. I would say to get a TV station off the ground in a smaller market might be a few million dollars and that is to get all the necessary engineering equipment and everything else to get the station up and running and then to be able to maintain the station. And if you are in a bigger market, it would literally be way easier to buy a pre-existing station and just making it yours instead of going from scratch. 

 

Hope this helps

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Interesting idea but I think long story short, a TV station is a business, and it would have to make business sense. Existing TV stations still have a bit of "life" in them being businesses making money, but I don't think it'd make business sense to start a new station. It's much cheaper and easier to distribute video content through the internet, reaches a wider audience, without being required to fill content 24/7.

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1 hour ago, PTVNews said:

Interesting idea but I think long story short, a TV station is a business, and it would have to make business sense. Existing TV stations still have a bit of "life" in them being businesses making money, but I don't think it'd make business sense to start a new station. It's much cheaper and easier to distribute video content through the internet, reaches a wider audience, without being required to fill content 24/7.

This. TV only exists right now because of the momentum it's built up in the past 80+ years. 

 

It wouldn't be "hard" to start a station from scratch right now if you had the money (good luck finding investors to back it.) Affiliation might be the only problem. Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg or any of the other obscenely wealthy people could wake up tomorrow and decide "I'm going to build a TV station" and be able to build something that looks just as good as whoever your favorite station is right now. The real questions are: will anyone watch, and how long will it take to pay back that investment?

 

That's where it all breaks down. Even a mid-market station is going to cost you tens of millions of dollars to build. You need to find people to staff it. You need to find people to hire the people to staff it. You're going to need to convince people to buy ads on your new station, that has no ratings to tout. You're going to need to buy a lot of expensive gear and pay people to connect it all together.

 

Suddenly, you're spending millions more to keep the thing afloat, waiting and hoping that it doesn't sink.

 

WMNN/MI News 26 tried to build a hyperlocal news operation from scratch, and after 8 years of marginal improvement, the entire concept was scrapped and replaced with "national news with brief local updates," never getting beyond the point of only having pre-taped news segments updated once or twice during the day. 8 years, and they never got to the point of producing any regular live content, something that they clearly were working towards early on.

 

Heck, the whole NBC Boston experiment isn't doing so well, and that's owned and operated by NBC and not even entirely built from scratch. If NBC can't do it with existing resources, I doubt anyone else can do it from scratch.

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KRBK was a good example of an independently owned station to start up from scratch who ended up getting the Fox affiliation from KSFX (now KOZL).   Of course, the irony there is that KRBK is now owned by Nexstar and is thus part of a virtual tripoly with KOLR and KOZL.  

 

I think that KRBK was making good progress as a station.  They gradually introduced news programming and at least made good efforts in being a quality-run station.

 

Could Koplar do that in 2020?  I think so.   The reason is pretty simple.   People want competition--and competition is always good.  It encourages their competitor stations to output better product.   

 

In the case of Boston with WBTS, that market was already saturated with options for newscasts.   To try to persuade people to change the remote from a station like WHDH (a very news intensive station) to something like WBTS is a tall order, at best, to even attempt.    Viewers need a good reason to change the channel.  And in my opinion, NBC-owned WBTS just doesn't compare to Sunbeam's WHDH. 

 

On the other hand, markets like Springfield, MO, and similarly sized markets could see the opposite effect.  If there are only a "few" options for stations (and particularly newscasts), people generally want more choices.  KRBK found success in providing an additional choice in the market, yet Koplar decided to get out of the TV business.  If they hadn't, I'm confident that KRBK would've continued as a successful independently-owned station.    But to be balanced, I'm sure the competition with well-established station owners was enormous then and is still enormous now.

 

When KSPR got its news department shut down and merged into KY3, the sentiment from viewers was overwhelmingly negative (proving that people do want options for newscasts).  Yet Gray kept with that decision.

 

All of the aforementioned to say that I think it comes down to having the right owner and being in the right market.

Edited by TheRyan
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As to WMBF, I think one reason it worked from all angles was that Raycom was simply able to make more money for itself. The creation of that station, primarily motivated by digital signal strength concerns, served as a substitute for WIS (which had a Myrtle Beach-specific commercial feed) and WECT in that market, and Raycom owned both stations.

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  • 1 month later...

Another challenge is with the repack greatly reducing the real estate that stations have to work with.   By losing channels 38 through 51, many areas of the country have pretty much taken up all the spots on the dial especially with UHF.

 

An entrepreneur's best shot is to set up shop on a low VHF channel.  Aside from a very few select markets, the companies have filled up the affiliations using low-power, digital subchannels and repeaters, mainly for the purpose of setting up a presence in the market for cable and satellite purposes and the associated retransmission dollars.  Also, the low power and digital subchannels are pretty much exempt from ownership regulations.

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  • 8 months later...
On 1/8/2020 at 1:20 AM, PTVNews said:

Interesting idea but I think long story short, a TV station is a business, and it would have to make business sense. Existing TV stations still have a bit of "life" in them being businesses making money, but I don't think it'd make business sense to start a new station. It's much cheaper and easier to distribute video content through the internet, reaches a wider audience, without being required to fill content 24/7.

It may still make possible sense to buy a station, though.

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