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.
Gannett Broadcasting president Dave Lougee 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 talked 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.
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 RightThisMinute -- 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 is a partner at 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 with 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, added 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.