Even the Prettiest Garden Only Stays Pretty If You Trim It Back Each Year

First a couple of notes: I’ve been out of pocket because of some projects and because of a trip to Tulsa over the weekend. Having said that, it was a pleasant surprise to have a note waiting for me from P.L. alerting me to an article in TVNewsday that he felt would be of interest to folks now working for LocalTV LLC (formerly NYTimes Broadcasting) and I think it would be of interest to their competitors as well.

I will post some of the article involving the magazine’s conversation with LocalTV honcho Randy Michaels along with some highlights in just a moment. First, it was suggested that perhaps Mr. Michaels might be following along the same general path as Bill Applegate. I never worked for Mr. Applegate but knew of his influence and approach when he was GM at WMC in Memphis. Some liked him and some did not. Regardless of what you thought about him, he left no doubt where he stood on issues and he appeared to be ready to share his opinion on the TV news business. I believe it was under Applegate’s reign that WMC copyrighted the term “Storm Team” being used by WREG’s Weather Team and then issued a “Cease and Desist” order for WREG to stop using it. It really honked off the management DOTR and I think they were POed that Applegate had pulled this one on them. Hey, Applegate plays to win. It appears that Mr. Michaels is also one who plans to take no prisoners and indicates that it will NOT be business as usual in the former NYTimes group.

One of the things that Michaels pointed out was that the NYTimes Broadcast group had too many layers and that fat has been or will be cut. He says they want to put more photographers, reporters and salespeople on the streets and wants to flatten the structure by getting rid of (his words) middle-management, bureaucratic jobs. Basically a leaner/meaner machine. And he indicates more cuts could come.

Talking about employees he says: “There are net fewer today. But I can tell you that in three months my expectation is there will be more. We are not about running a low-cost operation. But, look, even the prettiest garden only stays pretty if it’s pruned every spring. We had the opportunity, because this was an asset sale, to reshape the company. I?m also not suggesting that every position we eliminated is because the particular person involved was not a performer."

He also indicates (no suprise) that the NYTimes is probably just the first of the investment groups TV station acquisitions.

As promised, here is the first part of the interview. Since it is lengthy, I’ll let you go to TVNEWSDAY to read it in its entirety. Some of the best topics are in the interview on the website. Since this was copied over to this blog, you may find some extraneous punctuation marks or symbols. I can’t do anything about those or the small type.




TVNEWSDAY, Jun. 19, 7:35 AM ET

The sometimes outrageous DJ-turned-corporate suit is shaking things up at the New York Times TV stations he bought in May. Right now, that means eight markets. But with the backing of Oak Hill equity fund, his presence may soon be felt in many more. Randy Michael closed on the purchased on the New York Times TV group in May. Backed by Oak Hill Capital, a private equity firm, he handed over $575 million and took charge of nine TV stations in eight mid-sized markets. But his formal announcement that he had returned to broadcasting came two weeks ago when he accused a competitor of stealing video from his station in the Quad Cities of Illinois and Iowa, WQAD. In a warning letter released to the press, Michaels charges that Young Broadcasting?s KQWC of had ripped off live helicopter coverage of tornado damage that had been shot for WQAD by its sister station in Des Moines. KQWC told TVNEWSDAY that it did nothing wrong, that it was entitled to the video through a network sharing arrangement with the Des Moines station, which is, like KQWC, an NBC affiliate.

Nonsense, counters Michaels. You’ve got to give KWQC some credit for spinning this like, oh, gee that was just an NBC feed. No, they took a direct feed from our helicopter that was intended for channel 8 [WQAD] that had never gone near an NBC station and stole it and we?re not going to let that happen.? WQAD drove home the message in a promo: ?When you need to know what?s going on, get your breaking news where Channel 6 [KQWC] gets theirs?WQAD?s NewsChannel 8.? Regardless of how it all turns out, Michaels had made a larger point: The old New York Times stations have a new, combative attitude.

Michaels brings to TV a reputation for competitiveness and for attracting attention in unconventional and sometimes provocative ways, a reputation earned during his long career in radio, which took him from shock jock to the pinnacle of the largest radio group in the country, that of Clear Channel Communications. Everyone understands that we?re going to play to win,? he says of his new job. ?We?re going to take intelligent risk. You know you don?t shake things up just to shake them up. You do it purposely.?In diary markets, you?re dealing with recall. It doesn?t matter what people watch, it?s what they remember they watch. So a noise level is helpful there too.?In this interview with TVNEWSDAY, his first since launching Local TV LLC, Michaels outlines a long-term strategy for generating big returns for the Oak Hill investors through more aggressive selling, leaner management and state-of-the-art automation. And he acknowledges that the New York Times deal will likely not be his last.

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One Comment on “Even the Prettiest Garden Only Stays Pretty If You Trim It Back Each Year”

  1. The GM Says:

    I’ve used the pruning analogy myself. It is a valid point.

    Memphis TV needs a shake-up. New owners, new managers and new attitudes — this could be good.

    The GM

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