A (stock) picture is worth a thousand words

Thanks to the good folks at Morningstar.com, here are 12-month stock charts for 12 public companies that own and operate television stations:







Media General


New York Times




As the title states: A stock picture is worth a thousand words. Broadcasting is an industry in deep trouble, and it will take innovation and integrity to save it from a real disaster.


  1. Oh my God. Honestly, Terry, I had no idea it was this bad. Thank you for putting this story in context for us. You’re right — the pictures tell the tale.

  2. A couple other factors are worth noting here: 1) we are in the midst of an advertising rebound and TV numbers still stink, 2) typically you see some sort of accleration of stock prices as an election year approaches.

  3. Chris Anderson says

    I’ve put those figures in percentage terms and posted them here:


    It’s a striking decline any way you look at it.

  4. It is a sad state that the broadcasting industry which has been handed one of the single greatest handouts in US history — digital spectrum — is so wed to incumbant practices that they have been all but left behind. The proliferation of channels makes network television anachronistic. The tv stocks, like the newpspaer stocks are merely reflecting the siesmic shift of advertising dollars to higher ROI mediums like internet. Television compnies have been slow to innovate but eager to overpay — see Young Broadcasting. TV, like radio, is lived on borrowed time and thier public interest backstop. While it is premature to issue the death certificate, it is worth considering that before deregulation, TV was vlued differently. The combination of new technology, a bankrupt automotive industry (#1 TV spender) — no bankrupt companies don’t HAVE to spend to protect marketshare — and shifting media habits will continue to drive down television valuations. It is interesting to note that EMMS stock is up on the year after their own TV mea culpa that culminated in the sale of its station portfolio. Buy the sellers!

  5. No surprise here for me. As a broadcaster that achieved a 70% of cashflow to revenue perfomance by non-traditional innovation in the TV station Business, I witnessed when that station WZTV, Nashville was purchased by an oldline tratraditional broadcast group, Sinclair (SSG)its numbers quickly fell to what was common among its new sister stations, 40%. The bigger groups have become like McDonalds where growth of revenues will only come from the purchase of more stations and the profit margins will decline.

    Other than my experience with Act III Broadcasting, the owner of WZTV, I found that innovation was encouraged only in speach and not in practice. No surprise here, since ACT III was owned by Noman Lear, the most innovative of program producers in the history of modern television and most broadcast companies are run by money managers not innovators.

    As Terry has written in his essay “The Opportunities of Unbundled Media”, most media companies will probably allow the future to go to those that are not the traditional media companies that are stuck in the past. Most likely they will do it with almost no fight. Most industries that have matured in their original business model, believe all new ideas and technology will have to look like their old, but just freshened up a bit.

    I beleive the thought of unbundeling to traditional broadcasters is akin to anti-Americanism. I once had an Television station group owner express to me that programming was only the crap that ran between commercials. With that kind of thinking, would the concept of allowing the audience determine what commecials and content they would want to watch and when, instead of the bundled model of forcing/intruding unwanted messages to the viewer on the broadcasters schedule be conceivable or acceptable. I think not.

    As mentioned by Terry, only when there is a simple way to take the unbundled items and the users can reconstruct them with ease at their location, will the real rush of advertising and money from the Local tradional TV, radio and cable outlets.

    TV stations didn’t take the message from radio when cable came alive of how to market in a multi channel universe. Now they don’t seem prepared to take the clue from what has happened with ipods and satellite radio to the radio industry. The future is here and the money will be gone before they know it. I would sell broadcast stocks short and buy the ones that show they are building meaningful relationships with the Yahoos and Microsofts and show they are really getting it.

  6. Brette Lea says

    TV broadcasters continue to lose audience share. They should take a page from other industries… build a good quality product and they will come. Innovation and quality are key to improving the outlook. My fear is there aren’t enough visionaries in this particular industry to make it happen. Too many followers and extremely few creative thinkers to lead them.

  7. The companies listed are largely diversified old media companies. Other properties (e.g., newspapers) are also impacting stock prices, and possibly more than television broadcasting. I think your later post on The Long Tail of Time about multiple underlying factors also applies here. I’ve posted a longer response on my weblog: http://technology360.typepad.com/technology360/2005/12/a_stock_picture.html. –Dennis

  8. Oops, I pasted in the comment I made to Chris Anderson’s version of this without editing it before I clicked Post. My apologies, but you get the point I guess.

    Terry, thanks for your great work. I link to you all the time. –Dennis

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