The Television Bureau of Advertising (TVB) announced that Chris Rohrs will leave at the end of 2009, concluding 10 years as President of TVB. Board Chairman Frank Comerford, from NBC Local Media, announced formation of a search committee to identify candidates and choose a successor to Rohrs. “It will be very hard to replace Chris Rohrs,” Comerford said.
“I believe in television more than I ever had,” said Rohrs. He told RBR/TVBR that this will not be a retirement, but he is not saying yet what the next phase of his career will be. Rohrs came to TVB after a 20-year career with Post-Newsweek Stations. “It’s just a good time for me to do something different,” he said, calling 10 years “a good, long run.”
Asked about his legacy, Rohrs said, “I feel we’ve done the right work, and we’ve done it well.” That falls into three areas: Advocating for television broadcasters by making the calls to sell television as an advertising medium; Developing e-business for the TV industry, especially the TVB ePort; and Serving as a valuable resource for members and customers. “The marketing’s been aggressive and smart, the e-business is critically important and we’re a good resource provider for our members and customers,” Rohrs said.
We noted that he’d been through a couple of recessions as a manager for Post-Newsweek. But could Rohrs have imagined anything like what the industry faces now?
“No, no. It’s literally true that unless you were around during the 1930s, then you haven’t seen this before – the severity of it. I was running a TV station in Hartford in ’91-92 when we had a pretty significant recession that was particularly severe in New England, but it didn’t have any of the feel of this one. This is so off the charts,” Rohrs said. “I do believe, personally, that we are bumping along at the bottom. I think that we’ll start to get bubbles of recovery – and its probably not going to be a fast, sharp recovery – but I personally believe we’re bumping along the bottom – and that would be good news for everyone.”
What advice would you give to your successor?
“Stay the course. Keep assertively and creatively telling our story. Television’s connection to the consumer has never been stronger than it is. The ratings continue to go up. Satisfaction levels go up by virtue of hi-def. Even the DVR is a positive in my mind. There’s the challenge of time-shifting and commercial-skipping, but I think that’s more than balanced by the increased usage and the convenience. So, stay the course, believe in the medium – the power. You know, that’s the most important reality. Television has not diminished in the eyes of the consumer at all. Quite the opposite. It’s a more powerful connection than ever. We need to continue to tell that story, to do the research, to make the smart presentations and keep that story clear,” Rohrs said.
“The second piece of advice I would have is that I’m a 100% believe that e-business solutions are crucial to the future of any medium, in particular to local broadcast television, where historically we’ve had a cumbersome transaction process. You can’t survive in this world with a cumbersome anything. Your customer service package, which includes your transaction process, has to be really good – or you’re in big trouble. So I would continue to urge that we stay strong, committed and effective with e-business,” he continued.
“And I guess the last thing is to continue to listen to the member and customer needs – and try to fill them,” Rohrs concluded.
RBR/TVBR observation: We’ve always found Chris Rohrs to be forthright and honest about both the advantages and challenges of the television business. His successor will have big shoes to fill. And we’re also glad to know that Chris isn’t heading off to spend his days on the golf course, so we look forward to reporting on his next venture or adventure.