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Local news station groups can reinvent themselves by going FAST

October 20, 2021

By Preethi P Nair, Senior Manager, Content Marketing, Amagi

Rising appetite for local news

According to Pew Research, US is home to 839 local TV stations or news-producing stations including those owned by five large publicly held station companies – Gray, Nexstar, Scripps, Sinclair and Tegna. The good news for this collective is we are seeing a steady rise in the appetite for local news - ranging from local election results and weather reports to pandemic and sports updates.

Comscore StationView Essentials data shows the viewership for the top local news stations—ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC witnessed an average hike of 4% for their evening and late-night slots, and 10% increase during their midday news time slot in 2020. Furthermore, the average hours of local TV news during the weekday rose by 18 minutes per hour according to a recent RTDNA/Newhouse School at Syracuse University Survey.

The writing on the screen is crystal clear: today’s consumers are more open than ever to local storytelling. But here’s the catch. To stay relevant and continue monetizing their much-in-demand local fare, local news stations will need to go beyond the traditional track and enter the OTT and FAST highway.

Why local news stations must diversify their presence

Here are the top reasons why local news stations must consider launching linear channels on Free Ad Supported TV (FAST) platforms

  • REACH: While the going seems good now, cord-cutting is gaining more momentum, with 68% of view time devoted to streamers and only 28% to traditional TV. The task is therefore cut out for local news stations: meet the audiences where they are.

    Local station groups must also remember that about 47% of US audiences watch FAST channels, and about 60% of the 69.8 million households that own a connected TV stream ad supported content.

    FAST is gaining larger, broader and niche audiences - and this is exactly where local news stations will be able to reinvent themselves successfully.

  • REVENUES: The golden goose for local stations – retransmission fees paid by cable and satellite TV operators for carrying the channels – is seeing slow growth with the retransmission revenues estimated to reach just about $13.3 billion in 2025 from $11.9 billion in 2019. Carriage disputes between distributors and broadcasters are set to significantly reduce this source of revenues, according to Fitch Ratings report.

    On the other hand, FAST is geared for a bigger flow of ad revenues. The estimated worth of ads across CTV (that is largely driving the FAST growth) will be about $27.5 billion by 2025. Amagi's own FAST industry report shows that 9 out of the 25 top performing FAST channels on our systems belong to the news genre. They have been driving 30% of the total ad impressions in the first two quarters of 2021, and we continue to see the dominance of news channels on FAST platforms.

Local news makes steady inroads into FAST: A few examples

Sinclair Broadcast Group launched its news streaming service – STIRR in 2019, setting the stage for local news to be served outside of traditional TV networks.

When Syncbak launched VUit in 2020, it gave another opportunity for local TV stations to monetize OTT. The free ad-supported streaming service built in collaboration with local television station groups including Gray Television, Meredith and others, recently tied up with Cox Media Group to expand its local news coverage to more than 150 markets in the US.

Local news is also seeing growing demand across other platforms such as Pluto TV, Tubi and Peacock. Fox’s Tubi launched ‘News on Tubi’ last year to provide live, local news feeds from FOX’s 17 O&O stations and other partners including CBC, NBC and News 12 New York.

Pluto TV ‘went local’ enabling viewers to watch latest news and updates from Boston, Bay Area, Chicago, Denver, Minnesota, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

On Peacock, viewers can consume local news content produced by 11 NBC owned stations including WNBC New York, KNBC Los Angeles and WRC Washington.

Reinvent yourself and establish your roots in the FAST universe

There are adequate examples to prove that free ad supported space provides plenty of opportunities for local news channels to thrive. If you decide to make the plunge, there are some key factors you need to address.

24/7 Programming

Typically, local news stations have only 5-6 hours of programming a day, all related to the local time zone or local geography, but linear FAST channels run 24/7. Increasing your live hours for a day is not a favorable option to meet the 24/7 requirements due to the cost involved.

Here’s what you can do. Create a 24/7 linear channel using live content, live recordings and a sequence of pre-recorded playlists.

  • Live: Spin up live channels and manage multiple live feeds, graphics and ads. With Amagi LIVE - our UHD ready, cloud-based live orchestration platform, you can orchestrate broadcast-grade live content on the go.

  • Live content recordings: Simulcast and record 5-6 hours when the studio is live. In the interim, when not live, you can stream some of your live content recordings in a way that makes it interesting for the audiences.

  • Shorter clips to re-run: Typically, news clip editors in production rooms create smaller segments of live news content. Leverage these segments to create a run-down of multiple 3–5-minute clips about a story, supported with rich metadata. Stream these collections of newsclips during the day to keep your audiences hooked to an evolving news story.

    Amagi now enables MOS protocol integration to help integrate these mini playlists from the production rooms with our cloud playout, allowing you to stream the pre-recorded playlists with ease.

Breaking news

Local stations get breaking news from any of the stations across the country, and need a mechanism to switch immediately and seamlessly into the breaking news. Amagi enables not only multiple live source ingest but also provides effective support for breaking news. With our advanced features including manual ad break extensions, seamless MCR/PCR interplay and rapid-prep for playout, you can effortlessly deliver breaking news to audiences.

Exceptional graphics for an unmatched viewing experience

Secondary graphics is key to making your content programming delightful to viewers’ eyes. Your linear channel might require static graphics or animated sequences, time-based graphics like a channel bumper, advanced dynamic graphics including full screen NOW / NEXT / LATER, ‘Back in’ counter and countdown timers.

Amagi CLOUDPORT supports these and also digital video effects (DVE) which are commonly used for promotional purposes and can be automated using Adobe After Effect templates. Apart from these, we also enable custom HTML graphics to provide advanced tickers that render real time scores and other data from external sources.

Advertising

FAST offers you the advantage of monetizing content through Dynamic Ad Insertion (DAI). You have the power to deliver targeted ads based on audience profiles as well as contextual ads based on content your audiences are watching. Do this effortlessly using Amagi THUNDERSTORM - our DAI/SSAI platform and measure your ad and content performance with Amagi ANALYTICS.

You can also delight audiences with a seamless and uninterrupted ad viewing experience by leveraging some of the latest innovative ad formats available - including Dynamic Brand Insertion (DBI), graphics overlays ads and contextual video ads powered by rich metadata and AI technology.

Get the Amagi advantage for your live linear channel

A growing number of local news stations are choosing to stay relevant by joining the free ad supported TV revolution. If you are keen on exploring your options, reach out to us and leverage our end-to-end suite of cloud solutions for creation, launch, distribution and monetization of linear channels across 50+ FAST platforms.

We offer unparalleled expertise in delivering live linear channels, backed by our experience as tech partners for leading news customers including USA TODAY, NBCUniversal, Atmosphere News, AccuWeather and more.

Reach out to us at cloudandme@amagi.com for more information on how we power live linear channels.

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