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Gray Television will share market research with CBS-owned TV stations

The initiative is promoted as one that will help CBS with its local news output.

The initiative is promoted as one that will help CBS with its local news output.

The CBS Building in New York City.
The CBS Building in New York City. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons, Graphic by The Desk)

Gray Television has struck a deal with Paramount Global that will see the latter leverage Gray’s in-house market research to benefits its CBS-owned local broadcast stations.

The deal announced on Tuesday will benefit CBS News and Stations, the CBS-owned local broadcast division, which will use Gray’s Strategic Insights and Activation Team — or Strat Team — for news consultations and other market research.

“We’re thrilled to expand our relationship with CBS by providing their owned and operated stations with first-class news research and consulting,” Sandra Breland, the Chief Operating Officer at Gray Television, said in a statement. “The Strat Team has exceeded every expectation for our content and marketing teams, and their expertise will be an impactful resource for CBS.”

Gray developed the Strat Team early last year as a way to produce actionable research projects that provide insight on sales and news initiatives at a local level. The broadcaster said it was interested in expanding its market research projects to support large-market television stations after more than 100 projects were conducted over the span of 15 months.

“Partnering with Gray’s Strategic Insights & Activation Team supports our mission further to enhance our market insights and our overall strategic planning efforts across the company,” Adrienne Roark, the President of Content Development and Integration at CBS Media Ventures and CBS News and Stations, said on Tuesday.

Another senior executive with CBS News and Stations said Gray’s market research would “undoubtedly contribute to our continued success across our 14 CBS-owned stations,” which will help the brand further produce “high-quality news and content to march our audiences’ evolving needs.”

It wasn’t clear from a press release sent to The Desk and other publication how the arrangement will allow CBS News and Stations to access market-level research from Gray Television without the two brands exchanging certain competitive information. But similar arrangements involving the exchange of competitive information have gotten broadcasters in trouble in the past.

In 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice settled an antitrust probe with five major broadcasters — including CBS Corporation, prior to its merger with Paramount — after finding the companies illegally traded certain information that led to artificially-higher advertising rates in certain markets. (Gray Television was not a party to the lawsuit.)

“By exchanging pacing information, the five new defendants and other broadcasters were better able to anticipate whether their competitors were likely to raise, maintain, or lower spot advertising prices, which in turn helped inform their stations’ own pricing strategies and negotiations with advertisers,” officials with the Justice Department said at the time. “As a result, the information exchanges harmed the competitive price-setting process in markets for the sale of spot advertisements.”

The arrangement between Gray and Paramount’s CBS is unlikely to draw the same level of scrutiny from the Justice Department, as it appears to relate primarily to news content aired on local television stations, though neither company defined the term “market research” in the press release issued this week — leaving open the possibility that the data points gleaned from certain projects could include non-news initiatives.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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