2012 - A Big Year for Local Television - Don Seaman-TVB

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As we see the last of 2011 fall by the wayside, we at the TVB are enthusiastically looking forward to 2012, because it looks to be a banner year for Local Broadcast Television.

Clearly, one of the most dominant stories that will play out all the way through November will be the upcoming elections. Unless you haven't already heard, there will be a Presidential election this year, and candidates will be busy in local markets throughout the primary and general election periods. Additionally, there will be several major Senatorial races, a few significant races for governor, and 435 Congressional races – each with stories to tell their local constituents. Estimates on the television spending go up to $3.3 billion this year – with one agency expecting it to go up to nearly $4 billion. Expect about 75-80% of those ad dollars to go to Local Broadcast Television.

2012 is also an Olympic year, as the London Games will kick off this summer. The Games are a great showcase to give local markets additional coverage based upon the hometowns of many spotlighted American Olympians. And with the rising stars of these athletes during the Games, viewers in the local markets will be watching their new homegrown heroes.

There are even signs that consumer confidence is ready to improve.

Holiday retail sales exceeded expectations as "Black Friday" and "Cyber Monday" each posted record-breaking figures. Good weather, creative consumer incentives and an extra shopping day (Christmas Eve fell on Saturday this year) all contributed to a 4.5% improvement over 2010's retail sales.

Auto sales continued to show gains late in 2011. Results for November showed the best sales period since August 2009, during the "Cash for Clunkers" program. The month also showed an increase in pickup truck sales, which would indicate a rebound for farming and construction as aging work vehicles are replaced rather than repaired.

There are even certain markets that are showing economic resilience in the face of a troubled real estate market. According to Zillow, the top five markets for year over year positive price changes are Tulsa and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Lincoln, Nebraska; Honolulu, Hawaii; and Madison, Wisconsin. These are markets that are cited to have a "strong local economy, good employment prospects, and maybe most important, the lack of a big housing run-up in the boom years." A healthy housing market bodes well for local businesses including home furnishings, insurance, appliances, and lawn care.

And an increase in consumer confidence generates more sales –there's no better way to get people into their local retailers than Local Broadcast Television.

One of the most important areas that will invigorate Local Broadcast Television is likely to come from a somewhat unexpected place: Mobile. Smartphones, tablets, and their portable brethren all are ever-present consumer tools that will help to lead the local media revolution. Owners of these devices are not only consuming content – on a local and national basis – but they're also creating their own content. And as they create, they share. Local news has begun to rely upon this user-generated content to bolster their own reporting abilities, as anyone with a Smartphone and a mobile hotspot has the resources to be a complementary news crew.

In addition, starting later this month, Local TV will be an even easier and richer social experience with ConnecTV, a venture jointly backed by ten leading station groups in the United States – representing over 200 stations in 45 of the top 50 DMAs. ConnecTV will allow viewers to automatically sync their "second screen" devices to what they're watching to interact with others who are watching the same program. This will allow additional content, promotions, and local advertising opportunities to a dedicated, attentive, and very interactive audience.

So if you ask us, 2012 looks to be a great year. You might even say that 2012 going to be the year of Local. But it's only the beginning of January, and there's plenty more to come. So buckle up – we've got a big year ahead.

Don Seaman joined the TVB in January 2012 as Manager of Marketing Communications, where he is responsible for promoting and raising awareness of the TVB, and of Local Broadcast Television’s value propositions within the traditional and digital media industries. Don can be reached at don@tvb.org.

Read all Don's MediaBizBloggers commentaries at Local Matters.

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