We were intrigued with this from the union-funded Voice of OC last month: Owner of OC Register Considering Purchase of Los Angeles Times. The Register’s Opinion Editor, Brian Calle, had also mentioned it to a CRA meeting we’d attended.
The LA Times might just be a bargain about now, with a rumored asking price in the $300-400 million range. Per LA Observed in December:
In 2006, David Geffen reportedly made a cash offer of $2 billion for the LA Times alone. Now it will fetch much less, if it comes on the market. Orange County Register owner Aaron Kushner said last week he would be interested in acquiring the Tribune papers. “We clearly have the means and the team by which to look seriously at the Tribune papers and, from the outside, they may very well have enough of the elements that we’re looking for,” he told reporters. Kushner said it makes sense for Tribune to sell the papers as a group.
We’d hope Mr. Kushner and his partners might consider a related opportunity. Being so geographically contiguous with Los Angeles County and the third world city that dominates it, Orange County has never really had its own radio/television operation dedicated to our 34 cities and population. If Orange County were a city, it would be close in population to Los Angeles (3.055 vs. 3.891 million), but we’ve never developed our own OC-focused radio or TV outlets as we’re within range of Mount Wilson’s transmitters. LA-based stations reach us without difficulty and, then, dominate the market. If the OC stood alone, surely we’d have our own, multiple commercial media outlets.
Times and electronics have changed. Cable television dominates now, and the required equipment to get content in its wires is monumentally cheap. Neither (thankfully) does cable require government licensing. Decades ago the Register’s then owner, Freedom Communications, developed the Orange County Newschannel, aka OCN, a small cable operation that ran out of its Santa Ana building. It was a great try at localizing their news, opinion and sports product, but likely never generated enough revenue to be worthwhile. I recall visiting their studio as it was considered a showcase for a little computer company named Apple that was having some success with the artsy-fartsy electronic media types and broadcast technology.
If Mr. Kushner succeeds in buying the Times, we hope he’ll consider that Los Angeles AND Orange Counties might covet and patronize a dedicated cable news channel and internet feed (with video podcasts) that focuses just on this part of southern California. It’s worked for three wildly different national cable networks, so we’d speculate (with his money) that it might work here. As well, 24/7 news radio’s working well via multiple stations in the area — in fact, News/Talk formats (and Rush Limbaugh) saved AM radio despite predictions of its failure years ago.
Content is king, of course, and if a Register/LA Times relationship effectively owns and already produces quantities of it, most of the work’s done. Getting it on air cable shouldn’t be difficult as there’s no spectrum limitations, and the technology to do it is far less expensive than the OC Channel of about 20 years ago. Print may be dying, but professionally produced, truthful content is not, and effectively, profitably mixing this media could be a winning combination.
After KCET in Los Angeles amazingly dumped PBS a few years ago, we had some hope that KOCE would better serve the OC once it became the exclusive outlet for government TV in the area. But there’s been no increase in local news or event coverage, and the station’s never has adapted to our mix of ethnicities, politics and life styles since it’s run by east coast left-wing idealists (despite the Republicans on its Board) and not real adult capitalists with a profit motive. If Kushner succeeds in putting together a print media empire in the Southland as we hope he does, he should please consider making it electronic as well. There’ll be money in doing that, and we’d appreciate the news source.
03/12/13 UPDATE: Numerous blogs and media outlets are reporting the Koch Brothers as showing an interest in the LA Times: Koch Brothers Mulling L.A. Times Bid. In part, “L.A. Weekly was the first to report that the Kochs could be mulling the purchase of Tribune’s newspaper assets, which make up $623 million of the company’s $7 billion holdings.”