The question about what will happen to Newsday and News12 after Cablevision was bought by Altice USA for some $17.7 billion has been answered. The Dolans are back in charge of Long Island’s major source of news coverage.
On Thursday it was announced that Patrick Dolan, president of News 12 Networks and news director of News 12 Long Island, has acquired 75 percent of Newsday Media Group (NMG), with Altice USA retaining a 25 percent interest in the new entity. Patrick Dolan’s father, Charles, former Cablevision chairman, will hold a small financial interest in NMG and serve on its board of directors.
“This is an exciting new chapter in the history of Newsday Media Group,” said Patrick Dolan in a press release. “My father and I, together with our Altice partners, are deeply committed to preserving the state-of-the-art journalism that Newsday has consistently provided and that has served Long Islanders so well. We also look forward to continuing the collaborations with News 12 Networks that have resulted in breakthrough multi-media projects and digital services.”
“We deeply appreciate the partnership with Altice as we come together to strengthen the power of Newsday Media Group,” added Charles Dolan. “This arrangement opens the door to greater opportunities to connect readers to what matters to them and to continue the company’s legacy of best-in-class local journalism.”
Altice USA is a subsidiary of Altice N.V., a multinational cable and telecommunications company headquartered in the Netherlands, and founded by billionaire tycoon Patrick Drahi in 2002. Last year, it acquired the St. Louis-based Suddenlink Communications for $9 billion. By closing its Cablevision deal last month, Altice gained 3.1 million cable customers in the tri-state area, making it the fourth-largest provider in the United States.
“We have enormous respect for the Dolans and their unwavering passion and dedication to journalistic excellence,” said Dexter Goei, chairman and CEO of Altice USA. “We are thrilled to be their partner as we drive the continued development of Newsday Media Group to the benefit of our customers and the local communities that we serve.”
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As part of the agreement, Altice USA’s Optimum Online customers will continue to receive access to Newsday.com and the Newsday mobile Apps. Newsday Media Group includes Newsday, still one of the nation’s largest daily newspapers; amNewYork, the most widely circulated free daily serving New York City; and Newsday Hometown Shopper, one of the largest weekly shopper publications in the Northeast.
As reported in Cablevision’s financial filings, Newsday’s combined operating losses totaled $135.5 million since 2013: $71.1 million in 2013, $37.7 million in 2014 and $27.2 million in 2015.
At Newsday, 800 workers—almost half the staff—are members of the Graphic Communications Conference/International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 406, whose contracts run through Dec. 31, 2017.
“I actually think the membership is more relieved now that we’re not going with the French company and we’re staying with the Dolans,” said Mike LaSpina, president of Local 406. “He was in the building today. He was in the press rooms. So, he looks like somebody that’s really interested in the newspaper, which is good.”
He said he believed that Altice was “going to make a tremendous amount of cuts, so maybe it’s a blessing.” He noted that Gordon McLeod, Newsday’s publisher, had stepped down the last week of June.
“We’re probably the only newspaper in the country right now that don’t have a publisher,” he exclaimed.
LaSpina said he was “pretty satisfied” with Patrick Dolan’s new leadership role in Melville.
“The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know, I guess!” added the union president. Before the Cablevision sale closed, the staff had joked that they’d have to learn French to communicate with their new owners. Not anymore.
“Yeah, the escargot is off the menu in the cafeteria,” LaSpina said with a laugh.
Jaci Clement, executive director of the Fair Media Council, a media watchdog group based on Long Island, noted that Altice USA had named Patrick Dolan president once the purchase had been completed, making him the only former Cablevision executive still on board.
“The fact he’s staying is not that big a surprise,” Clement told the Press, “but this is actually a really good turn for local news. Atlice weren’t local folks. None of them knew the landscape. Pat does have a news background.”
Clement said Dolan faces a steep challenge nonetheless, given Newsday’s revenue situation, but she doubted there would be the drastic layoffs that were predicted if Altice had remained in control.
“They need to come up with a plan for strong sales,” she said, “and they really need to morph into a true multi-media company as opposed to a newspaper that has a website.”
“It’ll be fun to see what he does,” Clement said. “This is the best-case scenario.”