April 30, 2012 | last updated June 4, 2012 12:07 pm
Q&A

Broadcasters adapting to market changes

Klarn DePalma

Q&A talks about the state of broadcasting with Klarn DePalma, senior vice president and general manager of WFSB-TV 3 (Hartford/New Haven, Conn.) and WSHM-TV (Springfield), who recently was elected chair of the Connecticut Broadcasters Association.

Q: Let's take an overview first. What is the state of broadcasting in Connecticut? How is it doing financially as an industry? What type of economic impact does it have on the state?

A: Broadcasting is doing very well. We have seen nice continuous growth from 2011 to 2012 to date and the rest of year looks to be strong. As an industry, most broadcasting companies have increased their bottom lines via cost-control and efficiencies. For the economic impact on the state, broadcasting/advertising is the best way to reach the mass audience, and the more local businesses advertise, the more opportunities they have to sell their products.

Q: How has the role of the Connecticut Broadcasters Association changed since its inception in 1955? Where is most of its focus currently as an organization?

A: CBA was established in 1955 as a pure member service trade organization. In addition to this, the organization has grown into taking a public service role in our work for the Connecticut National Guard, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection; along with our management of Connecticut's Emergency Action System and various AMBER Alert programs. In addition to these responsibilities, we have built one of the largest college scholarship programs in the state for students who are interested in studying broadcast communications and engineering. Finally, we are sensitive to freedom of information issues and work with CT-N (the state's government and public affairs network).

Q: How are Connecticut broadcasters dealing with emerging technology? What are some of the challenges?

A: One of the challenges with each new device is to try to reach our viewers and listeners wherever they are, on whatever device they are using and whenever they want. Also, the devices continue to change everyday and more and more new ones continue to come on the market. As broadcasters, we need to keep up with the new technology and make sure we are adapting with them. Big changes are mobile TV and radio chips in cell phones, which have taken off overseas. This is why CBA supports encouraging the cell phone companies to install and activate AM and FM radio chips in all cell phones. This will add another level of robustness to our public emergency warning efforts. We learned last fall that during major weather emergencies, cell networks can fail. Most broadcast stations in Connecticut have solid transmission facilities with emergency power generation and stored fuel supplies.

Q: From technology let's go to non-technology: on-air talent. Connecticut seems to be truly the land of steady habits when it comes to on-air personalities in both radio and television. Is Connecticut different as a market than other parts of the country? Why do people seem to spend their careers here?

A: Broadcasters remain in this market for two reasons. First, Connecticut may be different than most other markets because it is a great state in which to raise children. The education that children receive in our state is better than most parts of the country, and on-air people who have families are no different than anyone else with kids. They want to raise their children in a safe neighborhood with good schools and opportunities. Secondly, the Hartford-New Haven TV and radio market sits between two of the biggest broadcast markets in the country and I think some of the talent probably tries to stay here in the market in the hope of getting noticed by stations in New York or Boston and then moving on to TV market #1 or #6 or radio market #1 or #10, respectively.

Q: There's an interesting trend afoot (or so it seems). Local stations like WFSB and others are increasing their share of in-house shows and expanding local newscasts. Why is that? What is the thinking behind more local content?

A: By adding more news, entertainment and public affairs shows, local stations have the ability to control all of the content and sales inventory within the shows, without paying large fees for syndicated shows. Also, it allows broadcasters the ability to supply more local content to consumers, which is our responsibility in the local marketplace.

Q: How is the year ahead shaping up for the broadcasting industry in Connecticut? Will it see benefits from the Summer Olympics and the presidential elections? Or are their effects negligible on the bottom line?

A: 2012 looks to be very good for the broadcasting industry. The local economy is stronger, which means more companies would be advertising. Political spending for the open Senate and Congressional District 5 seats, along with the Summer Olympics, will bring an influx of dollars into the market.

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