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Cox Media Group to Sell Television Stations in Twelve Markets to Imagicomm Communications


sanewsguy
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7 hours ago, Myron Falwell said:

Apollo was never going to be a long-term owner. This is a breakup that will take 1–2 years to complete as Apollo cashes out.

 

Make no mistake, INSP bought these licenses solely for the 3.0 spectrum. The station operations and news departments are all either going to be shut down or sold to existing groups.

 

If I’m at ABC, I’m fucking terrified. Disney’s long-standing “we won’t buy our affiliates” strategy is going to bite them in the butt when WSOC, WSB, WFTV and WFAA are offloaded to a spectrum hog and/or a Godcaster because no other buyers exist beyond the networks.

How do you know that INSP only bought them for the spectrum? Or what leads you to believe that?

 

You have a track record of not necessarily being optimistic with your analyses. 

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2 hours ago, T.L. Hughes said:

 

 

None of us know how Imagicomm is going to run the stations, so these wild speculations of IP asset transfers, using the stations as spectrum farms and news operation shutdowns are just that… speculatory. I’ll grant you, though, that an affiliate of INSP buying these stations is extremely unusual… then again, the LDS Church does own KSL and runs it as an NBC affiliate.

I remember when ValueVision—a freaking home shopping channel that had no business running a conventional TV station—tried to operate WAKC 23 Akron as an ABC affiliate because ABC extended their contract. It was UGLY.

 

INSP didn’t buy these stations to run them as conventional network affiliates.

Edited by Myron Falwell
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49 minutes ago, DirtyHarry said:

Could the deal between Tegna and Cox have changed? Maybe the FCC already gave them an informal thumbs down? Maybe instead of that convoluted setup they had before, Both Tegna and Cox get rid of all their dog stations to get under the cap and then merge Cox into Tegna?

 

The fun thing here is that Cox is in the process of buying KLSR in Eugene and that now sticks out like a sore thumb with Medford/Tri-Cities/Spokane cast aside. 

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15 minutes ago, sanewsguy said:

How do you know that INSP only bought them for the spectrum? Or what leads you to believe that?

 

You have a track record of not necessarily being optimistic with your analyses. 

Jim, with all due respect, INSP has no track record running a conventional network affiliate and they bought a bunch of stations from a private equity vulture wanting to cash out.

 

They bought the stations solely for the spectrum and nothing else. They have only one fish to fry, and it’s INSP.

 

Edited by Myron Falwell
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4 hours ago, TresGriffin said:

This is why I wish Disney would just go ahead and buy Cox's "big" ABC stations, but with Bob Chapek in charge, that seems to be even more of a remote possibility.  It'd be a win for them in all 4 markets.


WSB: Top station in the Atlanta/North Georgia Market and Cox's flagship. Isn't this ABC's #1 top-rated affiliate in the country?

WSOC: Once the top station in Charlotte, now a respectable 2nd.  Could form synergy with WTVD in Raleigh.

WFTV: They'll own a station in the area that serves Walt Disney World's location, further boosting their investment in Central Florida.

WFAA: Every other network station in the Dallas/Fort Worth market is an O&O, so ABC might as well join the party and also form synergy with KTRK down in Houston.

 

I'm not sure Disney is committed to over-the-air broadcasting beyond it being a pass-through for programming from their television divisions. They could make the network cable-exclusive if worst comes to worst anywhere.

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4 minutes ago, AmericanErrorist said:

 

I'm not sure Disney is committed to over-the-air broadcasting beyond it being a pass-through for programming from their television divisions. They could make the network cable-exclusive if worst comes to worst anywhere.

That’s a very … dubious … strategy. Hell, standing pat and letting other groups buy up their affiliates which then cash out to private equity vultures who offload them to Godcasters is itself a dubious strategy.

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1 hour ago, scrabbleship said:

 

The fun thing here is that Cox is in the process of buying KLSR in Eugene and that now sticks out like a sore thumb with Medford/Tri-Cities/Spokane cast aside. 

Not to mention that KLSR, like most of the former Northwest stations they're offloading to INSP, doesn't have an in-house news department.

Edited by TVIntheDesert
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2 hours ago, Myron Falwell said:

INSP didn’t buy these stations to run them as conventional network affiliates.

You don't know that. Only David Cerullo knows why he decided to buy these stations. He could be a step up over Apollo and be a long-term steward for these stations and make the needed investments, he could do absolutely nothing with them and just collect stations like Byron Allen does, he could be buying them as a way to be expanding INSP carriage to digital subchannels. I wouldn't want to think the worst for these stations — give him a chance and see what he does. A lot of hard working people at these stations would be put out of work if your idea is ultimately what ends up happening. I hope Mr. Cerullo is not retaining you as a consultant. 😂

 

2 hours ago, Myron Falwell said:

Jim, with all due respect, INSP has no track record running a conventional network affiliate and they bought a bunch of stations from a private equity vulture wanting to cash out.

I don't doubt that Apollo wanted to cash out, I completely agree there. It was going to happen sooner rather than later. To your first point though, you are right — INSP has zero track record, so let's give them the benefit of the doubt.

 

2 hours ago, Myron Falwell said:

They bought the stations solely for the spectrum and nothing else. They have only one fish to fry, and it’s INSP.

Again, what makes you think that? Why would a company that has never owned stations before all of sudden be interested just to own broadcast spectrum? There's more to the story than is being reported, and unless you personally know David Cerullo, then you have no idea why he decided to buy these out of nowhere.

Give them a chance. The INSP TV channel is not my cup of tea but I don't want to speculate simply out of respect for the staff at the stations who would be put out of work if your idea of mass news department shutdowns comes to fruition.

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Is the way we consume television changing? Yeah absolutely but, the more I think of Myron's ideas the more I think that's asking for a lot of people to be placed out of work and at a time where local news matters the most we don't need anymore people losing their jobs due to cutbacks and such that comes from mergers than what it already is just because "oh local news is dying we need to shut down the whole news department!!!!"

 

That's nonsense the way I look at it.

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20 minutes ago, sanewsguy said:

You don't know that. Only David Cerullo knows why he decided to buy these stations. He could be a step up over Apollo and be a long-term steward for these stations and make the needed investments, he could do absolutely nothing with them and just collect stations like Byron Allen does, he could be buying them as a way to be expanding INSP carriage to digital subchannels. I wouldn't want to think the worst for these stations — give him a chance and see what he does. A lot of hard working people at these stations would be put out of work if your idea is ultimately what ends up happening. I hope Mr. Cerullo is not retaining you as a consultant. 😂

 

I don't doubt that Apollo wanted to cash out, I completely agree there. It was going to happen sooner rather than later. To your first point though, you are right — INSP has zero track record, so let's give them the benefit of the doubt.

 

Again, what makes you think that? Why would a company that has never owned stations before all of sudden be interested just to own broadcast spectrum? There's more to the story than is being reported, and unless you personally know David Cerullo, then you have no idea why he decided to buy these out of nowhere.

Give them a chance. The INSP TV channel is not my cup of tea but I don't want to speculate simply out of respect for the staff at the stations who would be put out of work if your idea of mass news department shutdowns comes to fruition.

INSP is a religious-tinged western cable channel.  THEY ARE NOT IN THE BUSINESS OF OPERATING CONVENTIONAL NETWORK AFFILIATES. You want another ValueVision embarrassing themselves operating an ABC affiliate that they had no business doing so??

 

How bizarre is it that someone so chronically negative and dour on stuff is telling me to give a fucking Godcaster twice-removed a chance? This deal is outright poisonous and I feel badly for the staffers.

 

You also should feel badly for the staffers at the rest of the Cox chain and WFAA and KHOU as Apollo doesn’t give a shit about who or what they sell their stations to as they carve that company up and sell it for scrap, Toys R Us-style.

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6 minutes ago, Myron Falwell said:

THEY ARE NOT IN THE BUSINESS OF OPERATING CONVENTIONAL NETWORK AFFILIATES. You want another ValueVision embarrassing themselves operating an ABC affiliate that they had no business doing so??

You're right. They aren't, but will be when the FCC approves the deal. Also not sure why you are comparing this to the WAKC situation when that was over 25 years ago — neither the station nor the company exist anymore.

I have nothing further to add.

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I’m gonna be blunt. This whole “give INSP a chance!” is what me and @Weetersfeel is a yearning for some on here and in the Discord to “undo” what has been called “Tegnaitis” which is seen as “bad” because it DARED to not be the same old garbage newscast stuck in the same old goddam presentation of 1991 that only caters to old people.

 

You’re not going to get that with INSP. You’re not going to get anything.

4 minutes ago, sanewsguy said:

I have nothing further to add.

You know better than to say that to A Stubborn Raccoon.

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I'm inclined to agree with @Myron Falwell.

 

INSP has no clue how to run a terrestrial television station. It's not part of their current business model. They exist to broadcast a single "socially conservative" cable channel that's chock full of cheap westerns and the leftovers of the old PTL Satellite Network. What on EARTH would these people want with network affiliates? Occam's Razor leads us to the simplest answer: They don't, they want the spectrum.

 

They're going to get all their affiliations yanked the moment they tell the networks that they refuse to broadcast half of their programming over "moral objections" over LGBTQ matters or something. Most of their markets have "friendly" companies already there. Gray/Nexstar/Sinclair/etc will happily gobble up those affiliations, and the networks will defend it if the FCC starts making a deal about them having two or all three of the "Big Three" on one channel. "We had nowhere else to go!"

 

The business model of INSP is threatened by cord cutters, what better way to turn that around than by buying up a bunch of full power, OTA, small-market network affiliates, gutting them, and setting them up to pass through the cable channel ION-style?

 

The BEST case scenario with these stations is they sell off the IP to another existing group.

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Weeters
This post was recognized by Weeters!

Samantha was awarded the badge 'Great Content' and 10 points.

I've been thinking all day on this one, and yiiiiiikes.

 

It's rare in 2022 to see a company with this much of a "moral"/"family" lean get into the business of full-line broadcast TV stations (ones with network affiliations and newsrooms). It's also a bit alarming because there is far less tolerance for that than there was even a generation ago. I'm reminded of when WPGA cut bait from ABC in 2009. Granted, they were a small operator that could very well have been muscled out by the shape of events in the intervening decade-plus anyway (especially because they did eventually go bankrupt and they were not willing to pay reverse comp), but one of the two reasons WPGA dropped ABC was because its programming had failed to meet Lowell Register's "family" standards. The last operator left that can be said to be cut from this sort of cloth is Bonneville, one of the last "boutique" TV companies, and that's a company that also happens to have an actual century of experience in broadcasting (and an alignment with a regional-national TV network much in the vein of INSP).

 

That's not saying that such wouldn't be a bad fit in theory for some of the markets on offer, with Pocatello and Tulsa standing out in particular as fertile ground for something like that. But in the moment we are in in media, affiliates exist because of tradition, public service obligations, and their news output. They have a reservoir of inherent trust that every other medium would kill to have these days, and they provide vital regional news and weather services. Sure, the networks don't truly need affiliates any more to reach much of the country, with three having SVOD platforms and the fourth going the FAST route and local TV combined being out-revenued by Google. But Disney+ won't give you the weather down the block, and try hearing about your local high school teams on Paramount+. These are the things people turn to local news for, and among the purveyors of such content, TV has the steadiest economic picture.

 

Imagicomm/INSP has no experience with any of these three things. They've been in two lines of business that, while about television and TV programming, don't coincide with the bedrocks of American local TV at the "spoke" end: a TV channel that shows Westerns and the distribution of family-friendly entertainment content. In this day and age, it's hard to be anything but skeptical of new entrants into this marketplace. There were probably some serious shudders today, especially at Memphis and Tulsa, where the company is going to be running much larger concerns than the ex-Northwest outlets, a fair number of which just outsource the production of local news programming anyway.

 

The problem is that PE companies see TV stations as assets to ride the downside, squeeze all the juice out of the lemon, and then discard the dry lemons to people who are deluded into seeing value or need them as dumb pipes for other types of services (and Imagicomm may well be in that business). They don't understand the social value of TV. They don't get what makes people who care about the news business tick. They don't get that this world needs lemon juice, badly, and they aren't making many more lemon trees. And, particularly as interest rates rise and chill M&A activity, there aren't going to be many real fruit growers out there to fill their shoes.

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Posted (edited)
33 minutes ago, Samantha said:

I've been thinking all day on this one, and yiiiiiikes.

 

It's rare in 2022 to see a company with this much of a "moral"/"family" lean get into the business of full-line broadcast TV stations (ones with network affiliations and newsrooms). It's also a bit alarming because there is far less tolerance for that than there was even a generation ago. I'm reminded of when WPGA cut bait from ABC in 2009. Granted, they were a small operator that could very well have been muscled out by the shape of events in the intervening decade-plus anyway (especially because they did eventually go bankrupt and they were not willing to pay reverse comp), but one of the two reasons WPGA dropped ABC was because its programming had failed to meet Lowell Register's "family" standards. The last operator left that can be said to be cut from this sort of cloth is Bonneville, one of the last "boutique" TV companies, and that's a company that also happens to have an actual century of experience in broadcasting (and an alignment with a regional-national TV network much in the vein of INSP).

 

That's not saying that such wouldn't be a bad fit in theory for some of the markets on offer, with Pocatello and Tulsa standing out in particular as fertile ground for something like that. But in the moment we are in in media, affiliates exist because of tradition, public service obligations, and their news output. They have a reservoir of inherent trust that every other medium would kill to have these days, and they provide vital regional news and weather services. Sure, the networks don't truly need affiliates any more to reach much of the country, with three having SVOD platforms and the fourth going the FAST route and local TV combined being out-revenued by Google. But Disney+ won't give you the weather down the block, and try hearing about your local high school teams on Paramount+. These are the things people turn to local news for, and among the purveyors of such content, TV has the steadiest economic picture.

 

Imagicomm/INSP has no experience with any of these three things. They've been in two lines of business that, while about television and TV programming, don't coincide with the bedrocks of American local TV at the "spoke" end: a TV channel that shows Westerns and the distribution of family-friendly entertainment content. In this day and age, it's hard to be anything but skeptical of new entrants into this marketplace. There were probably some serious shudders today, especially at Memphis and Tulsa, where the company is going to be running much larger concerns than the ex-Northwest outlets, a fair number of which just outsource the production of local news programming anyway.

 

The problem is that PE companies see TV stations as assets to ride the downside, squeeze all the juice out of the lemon, and then discard the dry lemons to people who are deluded into seeing value or need them as dumb pipes for other types of services (and Imagicomm may well be in that business). They don't understand the social value of TV. They don't get what makes people who care about the news business tick. They don't get that this world needs lemon juice, badly, and they aren't making many more lemon trees. And, particularly as interest rates rise and chill M&A activity, there aren't going to be many real fruit growers out there to fill their shoes.

This is well written and a fair way of looking at things. I think it’s fine to look at this deal with a skeptical eye.

 

But to jump to the chase and say “they just want the spectrum” like the commenters above you is just premature. I agree that INSP’s business model is dying and they are looking to diversify. But we really don’t know what their plans are until the ink dries. I’m sure the networks are figuring that all out now.

 

Cerullo may also not care about the content aspect from the local affiliates as long as it makes him money. Bonneville doesn’t care as long as it makes them money (as long as you’re not a casino or alcoholic beverage - they don’t want your money then). Yes, they own an NBC affiliate but they also own classic rock stations and I don’t think you could consider that music to be “moral”. 

 

I am just trying to remain cautiously optimistic is all. Maybe INSP realizes local news is more trusted than national outlets and that their core audience still believes in local news (I know a lot of “social conservatives” who hate the national outlets but still watch and trust their local news).

 

We really don’t know what their plans are until the ink dries.

 

Edit: also whoever said that they are buying these for ATSC 3.0 spectrum - 3.0 is DOA and would be a complete waste for them to invest in. I don’t think that is the reason at all let alone having the spectrum in general. If they really wanted to get INSP cleared over the air they just have to strike deals with the existing groups and they have not done that, leading me to believe there’s a bigger reason why these are being bought.

Edited by sanewsguy
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4 hours ago, sanewsguy said:

I am just trying to remain cautiously optimistic is all. Maybe INSP realizes local news is more trusted than national outlets and that their core audience still believes in local news (I know a lot of “social conservatives” who hate the national outlets but still watch and trust their local news).

 

We really don’t know what their plans are until the ink dries.

Oh come on. This might just be the shortest-sighted, Pollyannaish, most ridiculous take I’ve ever seen because you and the rest of the M&A advocates who want to go back to the “good ol’ days” of TV news are going to be caught with your pants down on this deal.

 

4 hours ago, sanewsguy said:

Edit: also whoever said that they are buying these for ATSC 3.0 spectrum - 3.0 is DOA and would be a complete waste for them to invest in. I don’t think that is the reason at all let alone having the spectrum in general. If they really wanted to get INSP cleared over the air they just have to strike deals with the existing groups and they have not done that, leading me to believe there’s a bigger reason why these are being bought.

It’s the biggest technological advancement in decades. How in the hell can you be so thoroughly out of touch with the medium‘s future and host a podcast supposedly about the future of the medium?

Edited by Myron Falwell
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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Myron Falwell said:

Oh come on. This might just be the shortest-sighted, Pollyannaish, most ridiculous take I’ve ever seen because you and the rest of the M&A advocates who want to go back to the “good ol’ days” of TV news are going to be caught with your pants down on this deal.

Lol first of all I am not an "M&A advocate" by any means — most of the quality broadcast groups left are the privately, family held ones or the O&Os, and anyone looking to work in the business is going that route. Secondly I don't necessarily yearn for the "good ol' days of TV news". We are well past the prime era for broadcast news. I don't think there's a point in "innovating" your linear product when younger people aren't going to really watch it. Turning on a TV channel is not a habit for someone who "doesn't have cable". Broadcasters NEED to do way more with their digital platforms but don't because they don't want to invest in it. Hyperlocal coverage, short 5 minute segments that appeal to a younger audience, longform packages only for your website and social platforms. That's how you get the younger eyeballs. Not what Tegna is doing. I'm not one who believes in the whole "Tegnaitis is bad" thing and I hate that word tbh. But if your audience on TV is 55+, then cater to that audience, not the 25-54. I know that's the desired demographic for advertisers but most in that age group just do not consume media the same way their grandparents or parents did.

 

I just don't think terrestrial television has much of a future in its current form, which leads me to this:

 

1 hour ago, Myron Falwell said:

It’s the biggest technological advancement in decades. How in the hell can you be so thoroughly out of touch with the medium‘s future and host a podcast supposedly about the future of the medium?

Because most of my guests on said podcast couldn't tell you what ATSC 3.0 is to begin with? Because some of them don't even watch their own stations when they get home because they "don't have cable"? I'm not out of touch with the medium — the medium is dying and ATSC 3.0 came too little too late.

Streaming is the future and that's where their money should be focused. Not on OTA television. I think some companies are trying but not hard enough. Maybe they should invest in quality original content and create the next hit show which they can make exclusive to their own platforms. Nexstar/Sinclair/Gray have the money for it, but they won't spend it that way.

 

That's why I am all for new blood coming into the broadcast landscape.

I'm not the biggest Scott Jones fan by any means but he had a much better take on this whole situation:

Quote

The 12 stations were for the most part in smaller markets and they are being sold off to Imagicomm Communications, a broadcast affiliate of INSP, a cable network that runs movies, classic TV shows, and Westerns.

Not exactly a news powerhouse. 
 

What does this mean for those stations? 
 

More than likely they will continue to be run on the cheap by a company that has little experience in journalism. 

I would tend to agree with Scott in this case. Maybe they do want the spectrum, but I stand by my initial comments and maybe they see something in local television we don't. Again, nobody here really knows what's going through David's head but him.

 

And another edit: where was the "spectrum" speculation when Byron Allen announced he was buying stations out of nowhere? What makes this situation any different? Byron had no track record of owning stations before and he seems to be doing fine. He runs them cheaply and makes very little investments into them, but he seems to be doing fine. I can't say this is going to be any different.

I'll be happy to eat my words if the transaction closes and the stations are reduced into nothing more than repeaters for the INSP TV network, but until then, we will just have to wait and see.

Kind of hard to speculate on a company that has no track record, and I have better things to do with my time than to keep going at this when you so strongly believe a certain way about this deal.

Edited by sanewsguy
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33 minutes ago, sanewsguy said:

I just don't think terrestrial television has much of a future in its current form, which leads me to this:

 

Because most of my guests on said podcast couldn't tell you what ATSC 3.0 is to begin with? Because some of them don't even watch their own stations when they get home because they "don't have cable"? I'm not out of touch with the medium — the medium is dying and ATSC 3.0 came too little too late.

Streaming is the future and that's where their money should be focused. Not on OTA television. I think some companies are trying but not hard enough. Maybe they should invest in quality original content and create the next hit show which they can make exclusive to their own platforms. Nexstar/Sinclair/Gray have the money for it, but they won't spend it that way.

 

You NEED a mechanism to make streaming a viable option. Anyone who bothers to look at the structure of ATSC 3.0 can automatically tell you that it provides WiFi so it can work. Otherwise you’re paying through the nose with Comcast, Charter/Spectrum, Verizon… the usual suspects.

 

It’s not my fault that people can’t grasp this. The technology is by definition complex and heavily prone to technobabble, which is why I defer to @Samantha or @channel2 to explain it.

 

33 minutes ago, sanewsguy said:

That's why I am all for new blood coming into the broadcast landscape.

I'm not the biggest Scott Jones fan by any means but he had a much better take on this whole situation:

I would tend to agree with Scott in this case. Maybe they do want the spectrum, but I stand by my initial comments and maybe they see something in local television we don't. Again, nobody here really knows what's going through David's head but him.

Depriving local television service so 12 full-power stations in predominantly small (and in the case of the Mississippi Delta, heavily Black) markets can carry INSP turnkey with no local programming whatsoever and make money with a shell of a station with no overhead at all is not “fresh blood”. It’s a nail in the coffin that is the US-centric network-affiliate model that deserved to be pounded in back on May 23, 1994.

 

Scott Jones is fucking fooling himself in thinking nothing will change at those stations.

Edited by Myron Falwell
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I’ll add my two cents:

 

INSP buying OTA stations still sounds like a sick April Fool’s joke to me. I will say this, even if they’re a ex-Godcaster, they could take the Angley approach and “air as-is”. It’s the same approach that KSL is using (when was the last time they preempted ANYTHING?!?) and it’ll be the same approach they’ll use for “INSP OTA subsidiary “.

 

Or, Myron and Weeters could be right and INSP becomes the new Pax. If it’s the latter, I have my barf bag on standby.

Edited by NEOMatrix
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2 minutes ago, NEOMatrix said:

I’ll add my two cents:

 

INSP buying OTA stations still sounds like a sick April Fool’s joke to me. I will say this, even if they’re a ex-Godcaster, they could take the Angley approach and “air as-is”. It’s the same approach that KSL is using (when was the last time they preempted ANYTHING?!?) and it’ll be the same approach they’ll use for “INSP OTA subsidiary “.

KSL is an aberration, they are technically autonomous of Bonneville but have been News Specialists for decades and have operated KSL radio for a century. They have cache INSP will never have.

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ImagiComm obviously sees value in programming to geriatrics or else they wouldn’t have positioned INSP the way they have.  I don’t think this is purely a spectrum play nor do I think they’re going to wipe out stations they just purchased just to put INSP on the primary sub channel. 

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40 minutes ago, appleachian said:

ImagiComm obviously sees value in programming to geriatrics or else they wouldn’t have positioned INSP the way they have.

That is not a ringing endorsement for a company that will supposedly own conventional network affiliates that don’t overtly program to the 65–dead demo.

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1 minute ago, Myron Falwell said:

That is not a ringing endorsement for a company that will supposedly own conventional network affiliates that don’t overtly program to the 65–dead demo.

Neither is local news the way it is; Cox has been one of the better chains when it came to evolving for the 21st century, but I can see Imagicomm throw all those efforts down the drain

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1 minute ago, TheSpeedKing said:

Neither is local news the way it is; Cox has been one of the better chains when it came to evolving for the 21st century, but I can see Imagicomm throw all those efforts down the drain

Cox Media ceased to exist when Apollo took over the group. This iteration of Cox is an abomination and will cease to exist in 1–3 years as Apollo sells off bits and pieces for scrap.

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For the record, everyone here was skeptical when Standard General came on the scene until they heard Deb McDermott from Media General was going to be running it. Also, don't forget about the former Heartland Media (before Byron Allen gobbled it up) run by that former Gray CEO.

 

An OFFSHOOT company of INSP may be buying the stations, but who they put in power and the experience they have with local TV is what matters.

 

Do you think Lincoln Financial Media, General Electric, and other diversified companies of the past knew how to run terrestrial TV stations? No. They put people in charge who knew what they were doing.

Edited by KentBrockman
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