Thursday, February 27, 2014

Back (momentarily) on the terrestrial superstation beat part 1 -- GetTV

While checking the TV listings a couple of weeks ago I came across an interesting but unfamiliar station showing what appeared to be a Jack Lemmon film festival. A visit to Wikipedia revealed that GetTV was a new terrestrial superstation from Sony Pictures and a quick perusal of the channel and its schedule revealed a heavy unacknowledged debt to Weigel's ThisTV and (particularly) Movies!

If you're going to steal, you from the best. As I've mentioned before, Movies! is, after TCM, probably the best channel for film buffs currently broadcasting. Technically, it's a collective effort from Weigel and Fox, but the division of labor has Fox providing the brawn (stations, money, libraries) and Weigel providing the brains (concept, programming, ad campaigns). Sony has stuck closely to the Movies! model and the result is a nice addition to the free-TV landscape.

It also provides a telling data point, especially when you take a close look at the timeline. I'll explore this in more depth in an upcoming post, but the broad outline will do for now. Six years ago, the idea of using over-the-air television to launch TBS-style superstations was not generating much interest. The only entrant was the well-respected but decidedly minor regional player, Weigel.

The first effort, ThisTV, was successful enough to convince Weigel to take its popular local format national with METV. Weigel's historic crosstown rival WGN soon followed with AntennaTV. Then came Bounce (combining elements from Weigel and BET). Then NBC/Universal's COZI. Then Weigel and Fox's previously mentioned Movies! and now, GetTV. There are a few points that need to be emphasized here:

This has a remarkably slow and steady process with increasingly large investments coming in as new information has flowed into the system;

That information is quite detailed. Since terrestrial superstations are generally broadcast in partnership with other stations, lots of parties have rich, reliable data about viewership and revenue;

As far as I know (and I've been following this story closely), all of the stations launched in this market over the past six years are still around with either their original format or a significantly upgraded one. What's more, they all appear to be making money.

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