Executive Session with Emerson Coleman

Hearst Heads To NATPE As Seller And Buyer

Emerson Coleman, Hearst’s SVP of programming, is going to Miami with a surging Matter of Fact to offer. When he puts on his buyer hat, he will be looking for a few shows, including replacements for the slots now occupied by Harry, whose return seems doubtful. In this wide-ranging interview, he also talks about the stagnant first-run syndication business, station groups' producing their own programming, Hearst’s kids programming subsidiary Litton, multicasting and his continued enthusiasm for NATPE.

Over the past decade or so, many broadcasters have dropped NATPE from their professional calendars. But not Emerson Coleman. The long-time head of programming for Hearst Television believes there are still plenty of reasons for station folk to attend the annual convention — beyond the Miami Beach weather.

They can shop for programming, cull sessions and meetings with TV producers, vendors and other media execs for new ideas and hold strategy meetings with others in their own groups. His continued faith in NATPE explains his seat on the association’s board.

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Coleman also has a pressing reason to be at the Fontainebleau next week. He’s got of his own show to pitch, Matter of Fact with Soledad O’Brien. The Sunday morning public affairs and news show, reinvigorated by the replacement of original host Fernando Espuelas by O’Brien last fall, has seen a surge in viewership (up 16% November 2017 over November 2016) and is now cleared in 85% of the country. At NATPE, Coleman will be shooting for 100% and time period upgrades.

In this pre-NATPE interview with TVNewsCheck Editor Harry A. Jessell, Coleman talks about Matter of Fact, the stagnant first-run syndication business, Hearst’s kids programming subsidiary Litton, multicasting and, of course, the merits of NATPE.

I take it you are happy where you are with Matter of Fact?

Yes. Obviously, it’s hard to generate a million viewers a week, especially in the current environment in syndication, but it’s differentiated content. I don’t think you will see the kinds of things that you see on our show anywhere else for the most part.

Brand Connections

On the Hearst stations, Matter of Fact outperforms every show on cable, which was the goal at the outset. We are extraordinarily competitive in those same markets against the broadcast newsmaker shows as well, and we beat or tie each one with the exception of Meet the Press. Those are also our partners so we are not necessarily beating our chests about that because we are closely aligned with them.

So, how do you account for your success so far?

The CBS O&O group, the NBC O&O group and Fox O&O group. They were kind of phenomenal in helping us to do something that was really challenging. If you pick up your listings and look for available time periods, especially in the Sunday morning news and information block, they are few and far between.

Part of our thinking was based on watching the shows that we partner with on ABC and NBC and CBS — Face the Nation and Meet the Press and This Week. We wanted to be complementary to those programs. We are often adjacent to those shows or we are adjacent to local newscasts. It’s not true in every market, but it’s true in a lot of markets.

There is also a business equation there. When the network news shows do extremely well, they absolutely make us look really good. But there’s not necessarily a lot of inventory in those shows for the local stations. Matter of Fact has a 6-2 split. We only retain two minutes of national barter.

The show is cleared in 85% of the country. How important is it to get the other 15%?

It is important. One of the things we want to accomplish at NATPE is increasing awareness. The show is based in Washington, but, if you look at the makeup of our stories, many come from the middle of the country. So, those small markets are important to us. We really are trying to connect with a cross-section of viewers.

Is the show a money maker?

It’s not a money maker out of the gate, but we intend it to be a money maker. We did not go into this thinking that in the first several years it was going to be a great business, but we think it’s a great long-term business.

Let’s turn to Litton Entertainment, which is also part of your portfolio, correct?

Yes, it is. Litton is a great business, a great established business. I have known [founder and CEO] Dave Morgan since Hector was a pup as we say in the South and he has really grown and developed that business into a really distinctive company in the space that they operate in. 

So, primarily, it’s family entertainment. They do an extraordinary job with children-oriented educational/informational programming, they have developed very special relationships with ABC and CBS and NBC as well as The CW, and I think they are going to use NATPE as an opportunity to make some announcements.

They do the entire [three-hour] E/I block and that’s exactly what buyers wanted. It’s a challenge [building and maintaining that block] if you are just acquiring individual shows. Station groups learned that lesson the hard way.

What we found out from buying individual shows is that, as much as we might have liked them, they weren’t necessarily sustainable. You would get a call in the middle of the season and learn the program was going to go away. You had to revamp your schedule, spend a lot of time looking for other product.


Comments (3) -

MediaBigData Nickname posted 5 months ago
That guy is smart. Good interview
OldSchool Nickname posted 5 months ago
Smart man and professional as is Hearst Television. Good broadcast group.
formergm Nickname posted 5 months ago
Hearst Television is the best station group. Nobody comes close. Graham is probably #2, but way too small for accurate national comparisons.
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