KEYT’s parent company is making a major consolidation move in taking over the Fox affiliate on the Central Coast.
Missouri-based News-Press & Gazette Co. announced Sept. 20 that in addition to taking over KKFK or Fox 11, it will buy CBS and Telemundo affiliates in Monterey from Cowles Media and enter a shared services agreement to take over news and back office operations at KCOY in Santa Maria.
Because of regulatory constraints, the KCOY station will continue to be owned by Cowles and it will operate a separate sales and general management team. But the news product will bear the imprimatur of News-Press & Gazette which has so far been successful in turning around Santa Barbara-based KEYT. The odd station out in the deal is KSBY, based in San Luis Obispo.
The transaction comes as the market for local television advertising is staging a bit of a rebound after taking a big hit during the recession. My guess would be that the rebound has come more quickly on the South Coast than in areas like Santa Maria and Salinas, where unemployment is still high. The Cowles Family had taken the unusual step of broadcasting Santa Maria news from Salinas in a cost-cutting move.
These days, local television stations are recovering some of their cache and it could be that the folks at News-Press & Gazette media are making a smart move by forming a deal with the Minnesota-based Cowles family. Here’s why:
• Politics, politics, politics. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision opened the floodgates for corporate political advertising and redistricting made California races much more competitive, especially on the Central Coast. Local television remains by far the preferred advertising vehicle for influencing results for candidates and ballot initiatives that are remotely competitive. Combined KEYT and KKFX ownership gives News-Press & Gazette a second channel to distribute political ads and buying up the Monterey-Salinas stations creates a much bigger territory for ad packages.
• Cable’s balkanized owners. To reach from Ventura to San Luis Obispo you need to cross territories of four of the nation’s largest system operators — Time Warner, Cox, Comcast and Charter, which is in the process of being acquired Liberty Media. There are ways to make a total market buy but for local advertisers, having a single path to reach multiple sub-markets is a bonus for the incumbent broadcasters.
• Sports and local news. News is the key franchise for local broadcasters and it really doesn’t have a competitor online in terms of audience size and reach. Meanwhile, the ability of ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox to deliver huge audiences for the NFL playoffs, the World Series, the Olympics and major golf tournaments is not seeing the same decline as the audience for, let’s say, daily newspapers.
• The Latino market. By getting its arms around a Telemundo station in Monterey County, News-Press & Gazette may be able to expand the Spanish-language offerings down the Central Coast.
• And finally there is the question of timing. KEYT’s parent company has spent a couple of years digesting its new operation, but its history has shown a desire to expand media holdings where they make sense.
This is decidedly an off year for elections. But look what’s coming up. In 2014 there are congressional elections, a governor’s race that may or may not be competitive and the first re-election campaign for legislative offices under new districts. In 2016 is an open presidential election, a huge revenue driver for issues and candidate ads, even in a blue state like California.
In business and in life, timing is everything. News-Press & Gazette is expanding during a propitious moment for broadcast media on the Central Coast.
• Contact Editor Henry Dubroff at [email protected]