Executives from E.W. Scripps, Sinclair and Nexstar say there’s strong revenue potential in streaming their local content, provided they find scale and their sellers train up and buy in to OTT’s TV-like qualities.
LAS VEGAS — Local broadcasters are ramping up their streaming news plays. Now it’s time for their sales operations to follow.
“For the local salespeople, if they’re not selling OTT today, I don’t know where they’re going to be tomorrow,” said Tom Sly, E.W. Scripps VP of revenue for national media, at the Streaming Summit at the NAB Show on Monday.
Scripps has had more OTT runway than many of its local competitors thanks to Newsy, its millennial-targeted news service that began life as a digital streamer before expanding into cable last year. Learnings at Newsy have begun to fan out to its local stations, Sly said, where OTT has become “the shiny new object.”
But there’s a long way until local sellers get on board with streaming, said Gregory Raifman, president of Nexstar Digital. “It’s a different mindset, different rules,” he said.
Nexstar recently launched a streaming service for KRON, its San Francisco MNT affiliate, prompted by the market’s abundance of young cord cutters and cord nevers. “We wanted to reach that audience in a different way,” Raifman said, noting that its programming will veer to a number of OTT originals.
But Nexstar’s sellers may not be quite as poised for the new platform as KRON’s newsroom. Raifman said it’s a big ask to get veteran local TV salespeople on board with yet another digital product, given it’s a realm known more for thankless dimes-to-dollars margins and relatively complex offerings like digital marketing services.
Raifman said more in-house education and consultation on what results mean is one way to get local sellers on side with OTT.
Sly said OTT’s TV-like nature ought to be a built-in advantage for local salespeople. “The beauty of OTT is it’s easy,” he said. “It’s video.”
Adam Ware, GM of Stirr, Sinclair Broadcast Group’s newly-rolled out streaming network, also sees OTT’s affinities with TV as a boon.
Stirr’s service works as both a bundle of free TV channels and specific Stirr City channels in 79 different markets, all of which Sinclair thinks of as affiliates. Those channels run local programming complemented by nationally programmed content, and Ware said Stirr plans to continue its Stirr City rollout beyond Sinclair’s station footprint.
“Sellers are realizing that they’re selling a multichannel experience,” Ware said of the platform, noting that OTT is also yielding TV-like opportunities.
“OTT is actually bringing dayparts back,” he said. “I can see clear tune-ins at certain times of the day that look a lot like what happens on television.”
He said genre programming, too, shows affinities with TV in helping deliver higher premiums.
“OTT will bring us back to a lot of those basics,” he said.
Programmatic will also play a growing part in the local OTT ecosystem. Raifman sees less direct selling as more OTT content becomes available down the road.
But local programmatic growth will have to follow scale.
“One of the biggest challenges locally is scale,” Sly said. “It takes a lot to build scale.”
Ware hopes Stirr will help to answer that problem. “I envision a day where every TV station and market, not just Sinclair, can be on the Stirr platform,” he said.
Regardless, Ware thinks by 2021 every broadcaster will have a direct-to-consumer product in the space. And Raifman said the revenue should soon follow. “If we get this right, there’s a lot more dollars for us on a local level.”
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