The Local Imperative


Good syndicated content is hard to find. In response, more and more local stations are developing their own programs—and rightly so. When you look at markets across the country, large and small, local content is more than holding its own in terms of ratings.

Good Day LA and Good Day NY on Fox stations show local programming can be a big success in major markets.

Further cementing that fact is the notable ratings success of the KTLA Morning Show in Los Angeles, as demonstrated by its recent expansion to a three-hour slot. That those stations can succeed with competing local shows demonstrates the demand for local programming. It doesn’t matter how big or small the market is.

“Broadcasters will be more successful if they commit more to local.” So said media tycoon Rupert Murdoch recently. We should heed his words. Today, people no longer need, nor are they tuning in to, the TV to get their national news. Whether they get it via cellphone, through the Internet or watch it on a digital billboard, chances are that, by the time they come home, audiences have seen and heard the top national news stories several times.

What local TV offers is something unique: the chance to find out about your community; what’s happening in your neighborhood; where the local car chase ended, what events are coming up that you and the family may want to attend.

The point is that local programming offers entertainment that viewers have not been exposed to over the course of the day. It is customized to each market, and that is why viewers tune in.

For many, the national network news used to provide the authoritative breakdown of the top news agenda, which in itself was a reason to tune in. However the 24/7 in-depth coverage now offered by cable networks means the news agenda is no longer being set by the network newscasts.

If a station can develop and support its own local programming, then there is every chance for success. Local ad sponsors are not in short supply, whatever the market size. The economic advantages of creating affordable ad space are demonstrated by print media. Local newspapers have had great success in attracting ad dollars from local commerce. Giving local businesses a more targeted but less expensive ad slot is a sure-fire way for local networks to attract significant ad revenue.

It is clear that, as Murdoch says, broadcasters will be more successful by committing more to local content. People want to see homegrown talent. We are not witnessing the end of successful syndicated content, but, for stations to succeed, they must pay special attention to the individual needs of each market.