Emmis Communications Corp. CEO Jeff Smulyan confirmed that he's talked with Fox about
possibly buying a handful of the latter's smaller TV stations, then spinning
off the Emmis TV group into a separate entity while keeping the radio and
publishing interests under the Emmis Communications banner.
Stations under consideration include Fox stations in Austin, Texas, and Birmingham, Ala.
Smulyan also confirmed that Emmis is part of a group looking at buying the
Los Angeles Dodgers Major League Baseball team from Fox, as well. That's a separate
transaction, which, if it goes through, would leave Emmis as a minority
shareholder in the team.
Separately, Smulyan reiterated that the single biggest issue confronting
broadcasters today is the lack of a dual-revenue stream.
Speaking at an NAB panel session, he said, "You talk to any group head and
they will tell you that the dual-revenue stream is the only issue that matters
to this industry."
But Smulyan remained optimistic that the industry can come up with a solution,
although it will take a united effort by broadcasters.
"We can solve this problem but it's going to take this industry focusing on a
solution to get it done," he said.
Smulyan said talks among key industry leaders have "made progress," but he
declined to cite specifics.
But talks have debated a range of solutions from how to get full-spectrum
carriage of broadcast-digital signals by cable either through the marketplace or
congressional mandate, to even creating a broadcast consortium that would make a
bid for DirecTV Inc. (seen as a long-shot by many industry watchers).
"Cable has collected $20 billion per year for programming, and we get almost
none of it even though 84 percent of their audience" is watching over-the-air
signals, he added.
And satellite operators are charging viewers $1.50 per month for local
broadcast stations that they put in their pay TV packages, Smulyan said, "and they
give us a nickel or 10 cents. Basically, the satellite people are saying
[broadcasters] were stupid against cable, and you'll be stupid against us."