‘Coffee Talk,’ With Graham Media Group’s CEO


The TVB’s Next Women: Coffee series continued on Friday, and this saw the organization’s EVP/Chief Communications Officer Abby Auerbach offer highlights of a conversation she conducted with Graham Media Group CEO Catherine Badalamente.

Badalamente shared her vision of how she believes Graham Media Group will thrive in the coming years. This includes moving beyond retransmission consent revenue as a key dollar driver and by excelling in each of its 7 markets with media hubs, not just TV stations.

“Let’s think audience first and let’s give them the best possible experience,” is perhaps one of the key tenets of how Badalamente is leading GMG, taking on a role previously held by the now-retired Emily Barr. As GMG’s VP of Digital Media for a decade prior to being named CEO, Badalamente’s experience perhaps positions Graham’s seven stations in ways that make digital first — even with Run3TV and NEXTGEN TV’s over-the-air possibilities.

With her early experience in the sales side of Graham’s business, was there a “pivotal moment” in Badalamente’s career that sparked her career growth, Auerbach asked?

Cleveland-based WKYC-3, owned by Gannett, was her first stop. And, she was told that to move forward she’d have to go to a smaller market. This was in 1997. Instead of heeding those words, Badalamente chose to break the mold, and gain respect by doing the best work she could in an Account Executive position at that station.

This proved to be the right choice. After nearly three years, Badalamente exited WKYC to take a similar role, starting in January 2000, at WDIV “Local 4” in Detroit, Graham Media Group’s flagship property then a Post-Newsweek property. She hasn’t looked back, with roles as Digital Sales Manager and Business Development Manager coming at the station before being named VP of Digital Media in October 2012 for the entire company.

NEXT Women’s goal is to help improve talent recruitment and retention, diversify station and corporate management, and demonstrate industry leadership, and with WideOrbit as an underwriting sponsor, Auerbach discussed DEI with Badalamente in addition to her career path, as well as mentorship.

Asked to discuss Badalamente’s vision for Graham’s seven media hubs, she said, “We are fixated on finding a path forward. It’s not going to be surprising to anyone when I tell them that we have to figure out a replacement for retrans, we need to be figuring out how we can be more profitable, we have to look at revenue declines and audience declines … those are a lot of what I’m talking to the stations about, and not in a scary way but what an amazing opportunity for us as an organization.”

She prided Graham Media Group for being able to take advantages of the opportunities, rather than the challenges.

Graham Media Group’s holdings, in addition to WDIV, are comprised of KPRC-2 in Houston; WSLS-10 in Roanoke-Lynchburg; KSAT-12 in San Antonio; WKMG-6 in Orlando; and Jacksonville pair WJXT-4 and WCWJ.

With Badalamente’s experience in digital, where does she see the intertwining of online and linear delivery of content for Graham in the coming years?

“I always say that I am not a digital person and I am not a broadcast person, but I am an audience-first person, because one of the things I think from a broadcast standpoint is that we are always thinking about us being the person upon high, pushing this message out,” she said. “What people want today is that people want a voice, and that is what digital has allowed them to do. We need to look at the audience, and what the audience needs from us.”

With more audience than ever before, giving them the best possible experience will yield the best success for Graham, she concluded.

Auerbach also asked Badalamente if she has any advice for women coming up today in the broadcast television industry. She replied, “Finding your circle, and finding people that frankly help lift you up when things are tough … having people that are amazing, like Emily and some of the people I work with through the Graham Holdings board. All I have to do is have a conversation with them, and they give me confidence that allows me to go into any situation knowing that I can do it, because they believe in me so much. I can’t really put into words how important that is, but I think we need to lift each other up.”