Although not a competitor in the breaking news battle, SOPTV fights hard for the dollars it needs to operate. Brad Fay, director of content and operations, thinks Medford is ripe for contraction.
// Photo by Jamie Lusch
But another player in the Medford market thinks he may have already seen the future of the Medford affiliates in the Redding-Chico market to the south.
“The model is already there [in Redding-Chico] for stations to combine news operations,” says Brad Fay, director of content and operations at Public Broadcasting affiliate KSYS-SOPT. That small California market ranks No. 130 nationally, only slightly larger than Medford’s. There, Fay says, the Federal Communications Commission allowed the CBS and NBC network affiliates to form a partnership in the 1990s known as a duopoly. The stations now share one news operation, with one news broadcast airing simultaneously on both channels.
“Why would you need three TV stations covering the same traffic accident in Medford?” Fay asks. “News operations are very expensive. Those stations in Chico saved a lot of money by combining news teams.”
This scenario has not been lost on KTVL’s competitors. Should the station come up for sale, Smullin indicates she would be very interested in exploring ways to bring KTVL into their respective media folds.
Whether that will happen any time soon remains to be seen. Freedom Communications is evaluating all of its far-flung media properties, says spokesman Bob Emmers, adding that nothing has been sold yet.
Any new revenue stream for the affiliates in Medford is highly prized these days. While none of the affiliates will disclose financial information, all agreed that it’s become tougher than ever to operate profitably in the current environment. The recession was particularly hard on the automobile retail business in the region, a major source of revenue for the stations. Meantime, other viewing options are fighting for the scarce advertising dollars, cable and Internet TV among them.