Local television audiences are turning to cable, Web, and print options for daily news. According to a new report from Forrester Research, Inc. (Nasdaq: FORR), broadcasters can recover local relevance only by extending their programming and promotion throughout the day to cable operators, newspapers, and online providers. Stations must recreate themselves as providers of video programming and marketing services across all channels.

“Local TV stations are losing news-audience share, ad revenues, and exclusive network content. And, to make things worse, new FCC ownership regulations will prompt a frenzy of mergers, swaps, and acquisitions over the next three years,” said Daniel P. O’Brien, senior analyst at Forrester. “The time has come to team up with other local media before these opportunities vanish.”

To reconnect with local news audiences, broadcasters are advised to collaborate with newspapers to cross-promote their headlines, share content liberally, and strive for all-day relevance. By drawing upon print coverage, stations can add depth to their news coverage and boost their credibility. Since these mutually beneficial partnerships can be based on barter, neither party needs to make steep cash investments. Once a joint venture is in place, competitors are locked out.

Deals with cable operators are also necessary for stations because of their strong distribution channels. With cable operators now able to buy broadcasters, stations must enter into working partnerships before they are left out. Local stations should trade their brand and on-air talent for all-day presence on new local cable channels. Additionally, cable’s emerging video on-demand technology can deliver newscasts at any time throughout the day.

Through information-rich online services, the Web provides broadcasters with an unprecedented opportunity to connect with audiences, particularly at work, and to provide new marketing opportunities for local advertisers. Local stations should plan for all-digital, all-inclusive newsrooms, which will automatically format local and wire-services content for Web sites, radio, PDAs, news kiosks, and set-top boxes.

“Station groups that want to grow rather than sell must create quick-execution templates for these local partnerships — and invest in central costing tools that let them function more like networks,” said O’Brien.

O’Brien is participating in NAB2002, the National Association of Broadcasters annual conference, taking place in Las Vegas, April 6-11. The first NAB panel O’Brien joins will address the impact of personal video recorders and is sponsored by A.G. Edwards. The second panel will focus on network-affiliated relations and is sponsored by the American Bar Association.