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A National Player With a Local Focus

18/03/2019

Why This Matters: Nexstar founder Perry Sook has won the Golden Mike Award for his role building the company into an industry leader.

Nexstar media group founder, chairman, president and CEO Perry Sook started his company in 1996 with a single station in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and a belief that the television station business, out of favor in the late '90s, was ready for a resurgence. Over the past 23 years, Sook has dedicated himself to proving that theory right and later this year, after its $6.4 billion purchase of Tribune Media is closed, Nexstar will be the largest station group in the country, with more than 200 stations in more than 100 markets and covering 39% of U.S. television households.

Sook has been a guiding force in the industry through Nexstar and his participation on many industry boards he is chairman of the CBS Affiliates Board, the Television Bureau of Advertising (TVB) board of directors and The Ohio University Foundation Board.

On March 6, he was awarded the Broadcasters Foundation of America's Golden Mike Award for his contributions to the industry and to philanthropy. The Broadcasters Foundation helps men and women in broadcasting who have lost their livelihood through a catastrophic event, debilitating disease or other unforeseen tragedy. The Golden Mike is the group's highest honor, and foundation chairman Dan Mason said in a statement that the growth of Nexstar under Sook has benefited the entire TV industry. As a member of our board, he has championed our mission of helping broadcasters in acute need and spread the word about the assistance we can provide, Mason said. He is admired among his colleagues, and it is a privilege to honor him.

Sook spoke recently with B&C. An edited transcript follows.

B&C: You started Nexstar in 1996 with one station, during a time when television stations weren't considered to be a particularly attractive asset. What was your thinking behind this?

Perry Sook: I believe, and still do today, in the essential mission of local broadcast television, which is to create local content to inform viewers and to help local businesses sell their wares. We exist as a local service business and I've always believed in that mission. Technology may, over time, change how we do it, but our essential mission is serving our local communities by facilitating business-to-consumer communication, and by providing local contextual, interesting, engaging, content, which is primarily local news. That mission hasn't changed and that's what attracted me to the business. Starting the company when local television was out of favor and building it for the last 23 years opportunistically has allowed us to create a company, when we close on Tribune, that will have almost 15,000 employees and almost $4 billion in revenue and will be the largest owner of commercial television stations in the United States.

B&C: Was the goal always to be a large station group, or did it just work out that way?

PS: The goal was never to be the biggest. Our goal was to try to be one of the best and one of the most valuable, create opportunities for our employees and create value for our shareholders. We continued to acquire opportunities that made sense for us, and really just woke up one day and realized that when we close on Tribune, we'll be the largest television broadcast group in the country. That was never the goal. I would say finding good acquisition opportunities, integrating them, performing, all were the goal, and where we are today and where we will be soon is the byproduct of that strategy.

B&C: The Golden Mike is a pretty prestigious honor. Past recipients include Graham Media Group president and CEO Emily Barr, former Hearst TV president and CEO David Barrett, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NAB president and CEO Gordon Smith. How does it feel to be a part of that group?

PS: I am very humbled for my name to even be mentioned with many, if not all, of those who have received this award before. The thing that is special for me is that I have received a number of awards for achievement in our industry; this award has particular ties to philanthropy and helping those less fortunate, and that is something very important to myself and my family. The combination of those elements is what makes this award very special to me.

B&C: What do you see as being the most exciting thing happening in broadcasting right now?

PS: We're spending a lot of time working on the transition to ATSC 3.0. We think that is going to be the next value driver and will open up opportunities for those of us that operate in the local side of our industry. We think there is an opportunity to provide enhanced services to advertisers and consumers, as well as data transmission, working with autonomous cars. We are in point-to-multipoint wireless communications and we think that there are going to be opportunities to do things that we aren't even thinking of today with ATSC 3.0.

The other area that we're spending a lot of time on at the senior roles in our company is the TIP [TV Interface Practices] initiative, which is an attempt to make broadcast television less expensive to do business with from a process perspective. In other words, if you have one employee that can make three clicks and buy ads on YouTube or Facebook, but you have an entire department to place media, reconcile invoices across 40 or 50 stations, we need to get it to the point where we can be more profitable for the agencies to do business with us. We think those two elements taken together could really drive value.

B&C: What's the scariest trend?

PS: The audiences are more fragmented today than they were five years ago, and five years ago they were more fragmented than they were 20 years ago. That is just a fact of life. With so much video out there, ou
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