Local TV

Young But Battle-Tested

More entrepreneurial GMs, less corporate involvement are driving Young Broadcasting stations 12/12/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

At a Glance: Young Broadcasting

Top Execs:

Tony Cassara, CEO; Deb McDermott, president

Public or Private:

Private

U.S. coverage:

5.9%

Number of stations: 10

Locations:

Headquarters in New York; stations in midsize and larger markets including KRON San Francisco, WKRN Nashville and WTEN Albany

Website:

Currently under construction

Following Young Broadcasting's exit
from bankruptcy in 2010, the local broadcaster
is investing in its stations: hiring staff, upgrading
equipment and rolling out local HD, with the latter
concluding this week. Young president
Deb McDermott is pushing a
strategy that she calls a return to
her start in broadcasting: "Entrepreneurial
and innovative" general
managers have the power to make
more key decisions, instead of orders
coming out of corporate, McDermott says. "Every market does
not have to have the same commission
structure or Internet program
or new business program or
structure to sales or news product.
I think it's important that GMs can
make changes and adapt."

Young also embraces the new:
With a full-blown video journalism
strategy, most everyone at a station
is a reporter. McDermott spoke with
B&C deputy editor Michael Malone
about the Young game plan.

How is 2012 looking from a business perspective?

I think 2012 is going to be a good year. Political [advertising]
can be very, very strong, and we've got a number
of swing states—Virginia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa.
Local and national [advertising] look to be in growth
mode; probably not double-digit growth, but we're probably
looking at strong growth.

What's the thinking behind giving the stations more
autonomy?

What's important for us going forward as an industry is
that we have strong leadership at the station level, which
is very similar to what we had 25 years ago in the business.
We need to let [general managers] be creative and
innovative so we can get the best success out of them from
a content standpoint. We are content producers -- that creativity
and that innovation is key.

Our facilities are [now] state of the art. Stations have the
resources they need to be successful. We've automated and
consolidated almost everything we need to at this point.
It's given us a huge opportunity to think about where we
are going and what we're doing and how to be signifi cant
in our communities and be successful.

Is the company looking at potential acquisitions?

There isn't anything in the works.
We're focusing on maximizing and developing
our own television stations,
making sure that they're successful
and have the opportunity they need
right now. There's a very strong balance
sheet in our company.

Are the Young stations potentially
for sale?

That is not in the cards for the near
term.

How's the sale of the KRON
building going?

It's still in the process. That will take
a while. Right now it's just in the beginning
stages.

Young staffers have been
through a lot. Was there much
work to do on morale at the station level?

Our general managers did an outstanding job during the
bankruptcy in keeping their employees focused on what
was important at the station and setting aside what was
going on at corporate. That said, it was a very difficult
time -- resources were slim.

Once we exited bankruptcy, with the influx of money to
upgrade all of the facilities to state of the art, that's been a
huge morale booster and has helped our stations focus on
content, on innovation and creativity instead of, "Does the
camera work?" I give full credit to my general managers
for the success of those stations, and staying ahead as the
company came out of this situation. We are very healthy
and very strong right now.

With the Young family no longer part of the
management, any thought to a name change for Young Broadcasting?

That hasn't been discussed.

Is Young at work on launching mobile DTV?

Yes. We're looking into how we're going to be part
of that. We're working on the technology side of that right now.

Are you concerned about the FCC and the spectrum
issue?

We are hoping the FCC will see the value of the
spectrum.

What's the status on Young's deal with Gray
Television to consult on the Young stations?

Gray is available to us if we choose to use them as
a consultant through the end of 2012.

Where were Young's best stories coming out of the
November sweeps?

We haven't received all our books yet. But we've had
some really good success, particularly in Albany [WTEN] and Nashville [WKRN].

E-mail comments to mmalone@nbmedia.com
and follow him on Twitter: @BCMikeMalone

At a Glance: Young Broadcasting

Top Execs:

Tony Cassara, CEO; Deb McDermott, president

Public or Private:

Private

U.S. coverage:

5.9%

Number of stations: 10

Locations:

Headquarters in New York; stations in midsize and larger markets including KRON San Francisco, WKRN Nashville and WTEN Albany

Website:

Currently under construction

March