What will the TV news creative industry look like after the recession?

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As TV stations across the country shed jobs and slash dollars form budgets, one wonders what the TV news set design, graphics design and music industry will look like once the country emerges from recession.

One thing is for sure — things won’t be the same.

Before delving into this issue, you should know this post is more of a “thinking out loud” type column. Many of the questions and points I’ll make don’t have clear answers and the ideas and thoughts I propose could very well be totally off-base or spot on. I encourage you to share your thoughts via the commenting feature below.

It’s been clear over the past few months that the number of new sets being installed is slowing considerably. Unless a station is moving to a new building or going HD, it’s tough to justify spending money on a set when revenues are falling. The same holds true for graphics — stations are keeping graphics packages or opting for syndicate looks or ones created in-house or at a sister station.

Folks outside of the TV news industry are often shocked to find out how much stations spend on sets, graphics and music and it’s not surprising. Viewers often find it tough to fathom how a station could spend $300,000 on what they often see as fancy walls and furniture.

To some extent, set and graphics designers and music companies have done themselves as disservice by inflating prices to the point they are at. While these companies often offer valuable expertise, experience and equipment, buyers may be wondering if the added price really has that much of an effect on the final product. Meanwhile, 3D work and on-set technology have driven up the perceived value and costs in the industry.

The “hubbing” concept’s effects on the industry will continue to be profound. No only are stations all but eliminating an entire department on the local level, but we’ve seen an increased use of chain owners commissioning shared music and graphics packages — a trend that’s been building for years.

I believe the days of spending the amount stations have been shelling out for graphics, set and music makeovers are gone. Even if we return to an economic boom at some point in the future, it stands to reason that station owners may be more wary of spending money as freely as before. For one, this recession has shown the media industry the ugly reality of its economic structure and spending may be more reserved in order to brace  media outlets for future slumps.

Plus, the media industry has also been forced to take a hard look at they way they do things and how people consume media — and the trends aren’t all that promising in terms of ratings and revenue.

It’s also worth noting that while the cost-cutting measures we’ve seen over the recent months may be a matter of survival now, this doesn’t necessarily mean money will start flowing again even during a soaring economy. Why? The industry is showing that it can still function will less resources, less people and less money being sent on creative services. So there’s not a whole lot of incentive to ramp up spending when those funds could be kept as profit.

It will be interesting to see how the slew of companies that produce sets, graphics and music will fare. Many of these companies were already in a highly competitive market and as the number of projects reduce, so will the cash flow. Like almost every other company in this tough economy, they will most likely have to take a good, hard look at how they do business and adapt to fit the new media landscape.

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