Growing Gannett Eyeing Homegrown Programming

Pending Belo acquisition means greater programming needs, impetus to create its own
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Gannett's planned acquisition of Belo further solidifies a strategy that has been in the works for some time-the group, which will grow from 23 to 43 TV stations when the deal closes, is developing homegrown programming that it is considering for multiple dayparts.
Dave Lougee, Gannett Broadcasting president, says the group has been doing research and development on new concepts for over 18 months, and has ramped it up in the last year as group brass talks with what he calls "a new generation of producers."
The shows will likely incorporate aspects of social media in their mix. "I think there's an organic relationship between TV viewing and social media," he says. "It opens up a whole new genre of programming. It's a large opportunity for our industry."
Besides the concepts it is developing, Lougee says Gannett will consider shows being developed by other station groups. "We see tremendous opportunity there," he says.
Lougee would not specify which shows from outside the group Gannett might be interested in; nor would he share information on the homegrown concepts and their potential time slots.
Gannett agreed to acquire Belo for $2.2 billion June 12. The deal is subject to regulatory approval and is expected to close by the end of the year.
As a response, in part, to escalating syndication costs, there's been a rise in local broadcaster-produced shows in recent years, including Raycom's America Now, Scripps' Let's Ask America and The List, and RightThis Minute-the latter a partnership between Scripps, Raycom and Cox. Debuting in 2011 RightThisMinute aims to capture the web's lively and immediate nature on television. It is produced by MagicDust Television.
Former Belo executive Jack Sander has worked with MagicDust. He was recently named the owner of several Belo stations that are changing hands in the acquisition; Gannett cannot own Belo's stations in markets where it already owns a TV outlet, such as Phoenix and St. Louis, but will provide services to them for a fee.
The Belo acquisition is a "great cultural, strategic and financial fit," says Lougee-two broadcasters with mostly No. 1 and No. 2 stations featuring strong news reputations in large markets. Besides the desire for scale that is driving so much local TV consolidation these days, the proposed acquisition would give Gannett greater regional and network-affiliate diversity, adds Lougee.
The pending deal also makes the notion of homegrown shows more sensible. "When we have this extended footprint, it makes a lot of sense for us," says Lougee.

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