Dead at five! Obituaries move to TV, as stations find revenue in the recession

Aimee Picchi

With local TV stations scrambling as advertising dwindles, it's prompting some to examine a money stream traditionally relegated to newspapers: obituaries. WNEM-TV, a Saginaw, Michigan, CBS affiliate owned by Meredith Corp. (MDP), may be the first TV station in the U.S. to air obituaries -- an idea it came up with this year when several local papers including The Flint Journal cut their frequency to three days a week. That cut-back worried funeral directors trying to relay information about services to residents, says Jeff Guilbert, general sales manager of WNEM.

A large newspaper's obituary fees can reach $1,000 for a notice, according to Advertising Age. But for just $100, families can buy into a two-minute segment about their loved ones on WNEM, which includes an obituary on ObitMichigan.com and televised information about the funeral home, Guilbert says.

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