Gannett Cable Network Not a Done Deal

By: Lisa Singhania, AP Business Writer

(AP) Gannett Co. Inc. is considering launching a 24-hour cable channel that would feature content from its TV properties and USA Today.

The media company said Thursday it is in discussions with satellite and cable providers about the concept, which would be called “America Today,” but no final decision has been made.

“This continues to be speculative to the degree can we convince enough operators to carry it to make the numbers work,” said Roger Ogden, senior vice president of Gannett Broadcasting. “This is still very much a process of trying to figure out whether this is viable or not.”

Ogden said the company has so far gotten a mixed response to the concept, which essentially would stitch together local news broadcasts from Gannett’s TV stations and USA Today-branded content.

“It’s the idea of taking newscasts from the top 25 markets in the country and making them available on a timely basis, a topical basis around the country every day, so that people who have an interest in those markets … have an opportunity on a predictable basis to watch those shows,” he said. “For example, if you move to Washington from Denver, and you want to catch the Denver newscast, you’ll know it’s going to be on everyday at 5 p.m.”

Gannett operates 22 TV stations in the United States and publishes 94 newspapers, including USA Today, the largest-circulation daily in the country. USA Today-branded content is currently available to Gannett TV stations, but nowhere else. Although Gannett at one time had a USA Today-branded, 30-minute syndicated show, it no longer does.

Ogden said the channel would run a newscast as is, but strip out much of the advertising and replace it with USA Today-branded programming.

Ogden said that Gannett is broaching the topic now because the retransmission agreements that allow cable and satellite operators to broadcast individual Gannett-owned stations in local markets are up for renewal. Those retransmission agreements expire every three years.

If enough operators agree, the cable channel could be launched by the end of 2004.

“We’ve had some relatively positive comments and a good deal of negative pushback in terms of questioning the idea’s viability and whether people will really watch the channel,” he said. “So it’s not a done deal.”

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