From On-Air to Online World: Examining the Content and Structures of Broadcast TV Stations' Web Sites

Article excerpt

This article examined the TV stations' application of the Web features that presumably would contribute to the effectiveness of their Web sites from both the organizational and consumer's perspectives. It also explored whether certain market factors are associated with the availability of these features. The content analysis found that news-- related content played an important role on these Web sites and interactivity and personalization were not readily observed on these sites. Broadcast TV stations seem to be following a safer route of expansion into this new medium by re-assembling and re-proposing their distinctive existing products for online delivery.

The inevitable convergence of telecommunications, media, and computing is amplifying the strategic importance of the Internet in the success and even survival of many businesses, including television broadcasters. As broadcasters, cablecasters, telephone companies (telcos), and the World Wide Web offer one another's services and the Web continues to experience growth in both scope and significance, traditional media practitioners such as TV broadcasters need to improve their understanding of the Internet not only as an emerging new media system but also a strategic tool for gaining competitive advantages.

Most of the broadcasters have ventured into the online world with IPS (Internet Presence Site); some have gone a step further to develop separate information sites (e.g., CBS's Marketwatch) and portal services (e.g., NBC's Snap.com). The crossover between broadcasting and the Internet became even more evident when an Internet-based entrepreneur, in searching for popular content to distribute, video-streamed online multiple broadcast network signals, including highly rated sports programs.' As broadband technology continues to grow, real-time and downloadable video over the Internet (i.e., Internet Video) will improve in quality and speed. America Online's development of AOL TV after its proposed merger with Time Warner, Microsoft's acquisition of Web TV, and ABC's webcasting of certain network news segments clearly signal a trend toward the convergence of these two media.2

The Internet, with its unique capacity of interactivity and personalization, is inherently very different from the traditional broadcast media. Cho argued that while broadcast TV could be classified as a low interactive medium, the Internet is highly interactive, generating very different consumer responses as the consumer engages the medium.3 Under this scenario, to take full advantage of the Internet, the TV broadcasters would have to re-orient their messages and the structures of presentation when they communicate with the audiences via the Internet platform. To explore how different TV broadcasters have utilized this important communications tool, the authors examine the content and structures of the Web sites established by the TV stations in the United States and investigate the relationship between the Web sites and various market characteristics.

The Strategic Value of the Internet and the Current Use of the Internet by TV Broadcasters

A 1997 content analysis of the home pages of the Fortune 500 companies revealed that companies who have higher market performances measured by revenues are more likely to use Web sites to reach their customers. According to the same research, the goals of the home pages were mainly to have a Web presence, to promote the companies' image, to enhance public relations, to attract users to browse products and services, and to collect user responses and other related data. Berthon, Pitt, and Watson suggested that Web sites can generate awareness, explain/demonstrate the product, provide information, help in the evaluation and selection process, provide feedback, and help project a favorable corporate images Practitioners and academics have suggested the value of having a Web site and advertising on the Internet.6

Both a field trial of home Internet usage conducted by Carnegie Mellon University and a NAB survey reported that getting information and e-mail communication are the two most popular reasons for using the Internet by U. …