Why local news is NOT dead

The word on the street is that the Ten Network’s share price dropped four per cent today on the back of disappointing audience ratings for last night’s screening of the US drama import Homeland.

Who cares?  Well, if you are dealing with the media in Australia it is a trend you need to watch.

Local networks showing movies and drama series already screened overseas are being gazumped by the World Wide Web: Aussies are downloading new shows direct from the likes of  iTunes and even pirate web sites.

About 15 years ago I got to cruise around the United States for a while visiting local TV stations and the one thing that struck me was the sheer volume of local news programming.  While back in sunny Perth I was responsible for an hour of news and current affairs weeknights and half an hour on weekends, my equivalents in places like Denver and Seattle were pumping out 5-6 hours content a day, starting with local breakfast news (including weather and traffic), updated with an hour-long midday news and a local news line up that started at four in the afternoon and ran through to 7pm.  Oh yeah, these “little city” stations were also pumping out their own late night news bulletins.

Why am I telling you all this?  Quite simply because what happened to the Ten Network’s share price is related to this same trend that started in the U.S. 20 years ago.  It has taken longer than I thought, but is starting to happen: The fact is that as pay television begins to dominate live sport coverage and consumers go online for movies and online for TV drama from overseas, the only area that commercial TV can really compete is in pumping out more and more local news.

So, I wasn’t surprised at all when Channel Seven started pumping out a local 4.30pm News a while back.  And I reckon you will see more not less of local news.  Newspapers might be struggling but we love our live telly and there’s nothing we love more than to know what’s happening right here in our own backyards.  Now, where’s the remote…