November 25, 2015 / 5:20 PM / 3 years ago

Tegna CEO looks to rejuvenate local TV

(Reuters) - Tegna Inc, the broadcast and digital company that split from Gannett Co Inc earlier this year, has assembled a group of employees to make local broadcast television, including news, more interesting to a younger audience.

The McLean, Virginia-based company is also trying to create more original programming and discussing ways to better integrate its lineup with social media, Chief Executive Officer Gracia Martore told Reuters earlier this month.

“We need to change and transform so we can continue to reach folks not just in the boomer generation, but younger,” she said.

Local broadcasters, like cable networks, are trying to appeal to a younger generation of viewers who are increasingly “cutting the cord,” or dropping cable bundles in favor of watching their favorite shows online.

Martore compared the state of local news to how late-night talk shows used to be viewed as dinosaurs.

“Everyone would talk about how no one watches late-night shows anymore,” she said, “but then in comes Jimmy Fallon, and he doubles the audience because he is doing it in a new and different way and he uses social media and has a YouTube channel.”

Over the past few months, Tegna has assembled a group of about 50 employees throughout the company to come up with various ways to pique the interest of younger viewers, whether through social media or other means.

Martore recalled how after the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado, in 2012, one of its local news anchors started answering viewers’ questions he received through Twitter while on the air.

“There is more like that we can do to engage our viewers,” she said.

The company plans to test different ideas in various of its 46 stations throughout the coming months.

One such idea is having viewers call in through video chat, as opposed to traditional phone calls, during shows.

Tegna has tested the format in some of its Denver programming with Video Call Center, a technology company that it invested in earlier this year, and is discussing other ways it can use it.

Martore did not rule out acquisitions as a way to reach younger viewers but said it was unlikely to make any big ones.

Reporting by Jessica Toonkel; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn

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