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“Go Big or Go Home” Isn’t Enough These Days. The Time for OTT is Now!

September 18th, 2019   ||    by Rick Howe

During the NAB Small Market Television Exchange conference this past week in Austin, I posed a question to Bill Seitzler, VP of Media Strategy for SmithGeiger. Bill was doing a talk entitled “Local TV and OTT: Time to Monetize is NOW.”

I mentioned that “People don’t generally know that local broadcast television is available OTT. And if they do know, they don’t know how to find it.”

That comment drew consensus from the audience, and the speaker said, “Remember that comment. That’s our problem. And we can solve that problem.”

Bill went on to point out that, “We reside in a media world of accelerating change, unprecedented disruption, and ongoing reinvention. But within these dynamic shifts a number of key elements remain invariant:

  • Audiences really love their TV programming… and by extension all the screens now delivering TV content.
  • Great storytelling is rewarded and will always find an audience.
  • Trusted, reliable and factual news sources matter across all audience segments.
  • A local connection drives affinity, brand trust, and purchase decisions.”

We have great local and network content, trusted local television personalities, and a robust local advertising model.

Automated ad sales platforms, like Videa’s, are helping to drive increased ad revenue for local broadcasters. And that same protocol can work for selling advertising by local broadcasters on their OTT services. That’s the good news.

But as we all know, live TV audiences are dropping. According a February 2019 SmithGeiger study, live TV viewing dropped from March 2018 to February 2019 in all age groups: a somewhat expected 19% drop in the 18-24 bracket, and a somewhat surprising 10% drop in 45-54. It’s even dire for local news viewership.

This in spite of the fact, according to Bill Seitzler, that time spent in front of a screen (any screen) has increased by nearly 3 hours in the past four years, to eleven hours per day of viewing time.

Let that roll around a little. Eleven hours per day! Half of that increase is smart phone video.

Streaming, on-demand and plain-old-ordinary (locally recorded) DVR are the platform engines.

As has always been the case, television needs to be where the viewers are: living rooms, kitchens, bedrooms, smart phones, automobiles (with ATSC 3.0) and probably, eventually, on the moon!

Local TV content is good; we just need to get it to the viewers.

That’s where OTT comes in. With 100% of advertising revenue for locally-produced shows going to local broadcasters, the return on investment for OTT distribution is very attractive.

And unlike knocking out an expensive syndicated talk show to add an earlier hour to local evening news, with OTT local broadcasters can literally have their cake (broadcast the syndicated talk show) and eat it too (stream the local news).

But viewers must easily be able to find it, folks. Stations who are already streaming local news use a lot of broadcast air time to promote the streaming shows. Bill Seitzler showed a clip of one local broadcaster doing a terrific job of explaining how to find their local stream on Roku but that clip primarily ran on the station local broadcast.

Anybody see a problem here? 

The audience you need to get to isn’t watching your local broadcast feed! They’re streaming, posting on social media, taking Instagram shots and watching Netflix.

A few years back, I had a client who was producing interactive content for broadcast networks. Contests, games and things that required a deep understanding of the actual shows being promoted. Think Joan Watson’s ears pierced on the CBS show “Elementary.”

But believe it or not, none of those creative types had cable. They didn’t have an antenna. They didn’t even have a television. They had never watched the show! But they did an image search, found her ears, wrote the questions and logged the answer. Yes, by the way.

When I mentioned that to my client, he said, “they don’t need to watch the show. They need to understand the viewers and their interests.” Which apparently included Joan Watson’s earrings. . .

My point is that local broadcasters need to stop talking to themselves. We are an industry steeped in tradition, and some are desperately holding on to that tradition.

Our audience is moving past us, at an accelerating rate.

The answer might be to find promotion folks who are not viewers. Their job should be to find people like them and get them in front of your product.

And if they happen to say, “You know that remote you did at the park? You should do it in front of the bridge. People love that bridge. It’s all over Instagram.”  You should listen to them.

The future of our business is not the people who are watching.  It’s the people who are not watching.

Ignore that fact at your peril.

 

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