Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Mailbag: Why is the industry broke?


I'm new to the business and wondering why so many stations seem to be so tight with a buck. Seriously, I know that years ago salaries were a lot higher. What's the deal?

Well, there are a lot of factors, some of them obvious, like the internet. But there's one factor that many of you are not familiar with.

It's called "network compensation" or "network comp" for short. Years ago, before cable and satellite fragmented the product, network affiliates received hugs sums of money to carry its programming. You could basically buy a station, put up a few satellite dishes, hire a couple of engineers and make a fortune. My cat could have run a TV station in those days, and that's why I often worked for some station owners who couldn't tie their own shoes but were millionaires.

But back then there were just a few stations. Then the number of choices went up, the network slice of the pie got smaller, and the networks started cutting network comp until it reached the point where all those big checks simply disappeared. Imagine running a TV station and having a few million bucks to make up in the budget.

Now, throw in the damage done by the internet, the economy, and the glut of people looking for work, and you end up with the current situation.

And what's makes this even worse, is most people have no idea how the business will shake out in the future.


What does it mean when a station asks you to drive a very long distance to an interview?

It means the company is too cheap to buy a plane ticket. And since it isn't costing them anything, you have no idea if you're on the short list or not. On the other side of the coin, if they buy you a plane ticket, you've got a very good shot at getting a job offer.


I know you've said you can't predict what the business will be like, but can you gaze into your crystal ball and take a shot at what jobs in the industry might have more openings than others?

Okay... the clouds are parting... I see ships on a stormy sea...

Seriously, if I had to make an educated guess, here's what I think might be in demand in the near future:

-Male reporters
-Female meteorologists
-Producers who can do more than one show per day
-Weekend weather and sports people who can also do a decent news package

1 comment:

Rob said...

Don't forget that a number of these companies have huge debt loads that they have to manage. They simply arent making the margins they are used to and have promised to their secured creditors.