ABC Network news on a cliff-edge…and sliding
March 1, 2010
(ChattahBox) – Many people love the internet for reading about news and obtuse information – unless they work at ABC News. 400 people no longer do, and the situation could get even worse.
Last week, the Disney-owned network announced plans to drop 400 staff over the next few months, and the man with the axe has no doubt why this is needed;
“I just looked at the next five years and was concerned we could not sustain doing what we’re doing,” David Westin, president of ABC News told the Times.
And his major competitors are in the same boat – CBS has already dropped seventy people this year, and NBC – the only network making a profit – has cut several hundred, with plans to lose more if needed.
The problem is news too easy to get – 24-hour cable channels and countless internet sites have cost the network-news shows 28-million viewers in just twenty years. And the advertisers [who are those networks life-blood] now have cheaper options. It’s already killing newspapers, and the networks are scared they’re next for extinction.
“Long term, it’s going to get harder for these guys to exist as they are currently constructed,” says industry analyst, Michael Nathanson, of Bernstein & Company.
The only one making a profit with news is NBC – about $400-million a year. And that’s chiefly because of the fees earned by from their cable subsidiary, MSNBC. So one solution for the other two is marriage to a cable-news station. CNN is the only palatable option, and they made their biggest profit ever last year, so they’re not in the market.
Meantime, ABC’s news staff are studying buyouts. If at least 400 don’t accept them by March 26, layoffs are next. And those in front of the camera who survive will now have to do more;
“There are people in television news – very successful people – who don’t write,” says David Westin. “We are going to require far more of our journalists.”
NBC News is the focus of envy for the other network-news suits; They started MSNBC in 1996 and still only employ 1,100 people. CBS employs around 1,400. But ABC’s payroll is not even close to that small.
But proudly displaying the myopic stupidity that got them this deep in the goo to begin with, rather than embracing the new revenue options which modern technology so clearly provides, Mr Westin sees salvation in more of the same;
“Investing in distinctiveness is critical,” he said. That means more enterprising reporting and less coverage of news that cable handles, like reporters in snow drifts with yardsticks.”
For years, all three channels have paid too many people far too much money, to do too little work. And now it’s come back to bite them. And the only people who can’t see the headlines or inhale the coffee is them.
Those 400 people are not only the wrong ones, but they will certainly not be the last…