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Local Broadcast News Meets the Rebirth of Linear

January 6th, 2020   ||    by Alan Wolk

The 24-hour news cycle has put much pressure on local broadcast news stations to find ways to remain relevant. First it was 24-hour news channels, which fortunately had little in the way of local coverage, but the rise of digital media and social media, which often can be local, has put the squeeze on local broadcasters in a big way.

 Some have responded by setting up their own Twitter and other social feeds so that they can report on local news as it happens. That’s a smart solution, but it begs the question of what to do about their traditional morning and evening broadcasts and how to make those more relevant to a new generation of viewers.

One answer is the solution provided by Bitcentral and its Fuel product, which allows local broadcasters to put up something called “non-stop live.”

Sam Peterson, Bitcentral’s VP of product management and marketing took part in a Q&A at the recent NewsTECHForum in New York to talk about Fuel and about the benefits of creating something that feels like a linear broadcast online.

Fuel allows local broadcasters to create a linear on-demand stream that is fully ad-supported. So, if a viewer comes to watch a specific clip, the video stream will keep on playing, pulling in related clips.

This serves two purposes: it keeps the viewer on the site longer, so that they will see more ads which will thus increase revenue, and it creates the impression that the station, which likely only has a morning and evening news show, now has a 24-hour local news service that can compete with the internet as well as national news services.

The Rebirth of Linear

This recreation of linear is interesting as viewers can now discover the joys of being able to watch shows on their own schedules, bingeing entire series in one sitting.

But with the launch of seven multibillion-dollar services and hundreds of big-name original series, viewers are also discovering something called “analysis paralysis.”

That’s the term psychologists use to describe a situation where someone is faced with too many possible choices and, rather than pick one, they get caught up in a cycle of indecision and are unable to make a choice because there’s a fear of picking the wrong option, given so many attractive choices, that the person just gives up.

That seems to be what is happening with TV now, where there are so many great new series and so many choices that the very thought of turning on the TV can leave viewers feeling stressed.

Hence the return of linear feeds, which take the onus of choosing off the viewer, who can just sit back and say “no, you pick.”

There’s an analogy here to Spotify, the streaming music service. When Spotify introduced its “Daily Mix” feature — a personalized radio station for the user based on their listening habits — they were surprised by how popular it became. But a little research revealed that listeners were also facing “analysis paralysis” — there was so much music available on the service, they felt that picking what to listen to had become a chore and so they were happy to outsource that task to Spotify.

 Good News for Broadcasters

The rebirth of linear is going to be good news for local broadcast stations though, as viewers turn to them when all they want to do is to watch TV without feeling like they need to make decisions. The more broadcasters can lean into that, with products like Fuel that create linear style feeds for news, the more they will be in line with the wants and needs of their viewers.

 

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