With Fox on board, WorldNow figures it now provides online and mobile platforms to about 40% of the 720 news-producing TV stations in the country. EVP Craig Smith says the company’s recent success stems from a decision four years ago to revamp its technology “from the inside out.” It’s all about workflow, says CEO Gary Gannaway. “Our goal is to make sure that we integrate with all systems.”
WorldNow is on a roll.
The New York-based purveyor of online and mobile platforms for broadcasters has renewed most of its clients and picked up several significant new ones over the past two years, including Meredith, Allbritton, New Age Media, Grant Broadcasting and West Virginia Media Holdings.
Now, it has captured its biggest prize yet: the Fox Television Stations.
Starting April 23 with flagship WNYW New York, Fox will roll out the WorldNow platforms — CMS, Web video and mobile — across all of its stations. The transition is expected to be completed by the end of June.
With Fox on board, WorldNow figures it serves about 40% of the 720 news-producing TV stations in the country — a far bigger share than any of its rivals: EndPlay, Inergize, BIM and Internet Broadcasting. It provides full online service to 213 stations and video-only to another 84. Before Fox, Raycom Media, a minority owner of the company, was the biggest client.
“Last year, we signed 11 new media groups and renewed 14 others,” said Gary Gannaway, WorldNow president-CEO. “The addition of Fox continues WorldNow’s growing dominance of the local media market.”
WorldNow would not discuss terms of the deal. Gannaway allowed only that it was “very long term.”
Fox also wasn’t talking terms, but Ron Stitt, VP, digital media and Internet operations, said the station group was happy to be allied with WorldNow. “We feel it’s an excellent fit for our publishing needs. We look forward to the rollout of our new station sites.”
Stitt said he would prefer to wait until the WorldNow-driven sites were up and running before discussing the deal further.
In adopting the WorldNow platform, Fox is abandoning EndPlay, a rival provider that was spun out of Fox and in which Fox still holds an equity interest.
Asked to comment, EndPlay issued a statement attributed to Ale Espinosa, senior director, marketing, communications and PR: “Having just successfully completed its fourth round of funding, EndPlay will continue to support its mission to provide innovative solutions to clients looking to improve efficiency, increase audience engagement, generate new revenue streams and future-proof their digital business investment.”
Craig Smith, EVP, sales and distribution at WorldNow, said the company’s recent success stems from a decision four years ago to revamp its technology “from the inside out.”
“We rebuilt it to be more nimble and flexible,” he said. “It allowed us to innovate more quickly, which is a problem it seems all the CMS companies have.”
The rebuild was guided by discussions with key customers, Smith said. What WorldNow learned was that the big problem was workflow — efficiently integrating the Web and mobile platforms into TV newsrooms.
To address the problem, WorldNow came up with what it calls Active Intelligence Management, Smith said. AIM interconnects WorldNow with other popular newsroom software, notably AP’s popular ENPS news production system.
“Now that we have laid the railroad tracks, we can move assets in and out of these disparate systems with WorldNow at the center,” Smith said.
“If you have a producer that spends 80% of his time inside of ENPS, it’s really difficult to teach him how to get into a Web CMS and learn a new system for managing content.
“Ideally, what you want to do is send content directly out of the ENPS directly to the Web or to grab assets from the Web and bring them into ENPS so that you can incorporate them into the package that you are putting out over the air.”
WorldNow also “talks to” BitCentral, Chyron and Cell Journalist, a service for importing user-generated video into the workflow, Gannaway said. “Our goal is to make sure that we integrate with all systems.”
That WorldNow can deliver a product that fits seamlessly into broadcast newsrooms is a function of its understanding of TV news and its in-house development, Smith said.
“We own and build our own technology so we control our destiny,” he said. “We don’t have to go to a third party for our development work.”
The WorldNow system has been created with broadcasters in mind, Gannaway said. “If you have a CMS that is customized for local TV broadcasters, then you have a tool that is, one, easy to get into and, two, allows you do everything from one place,” he said. “You don’t have to go to a separate system to push content to the Web or mobile.”
Workflow and ease-of-use are no small matters, Gannaway said. It’s a 24/7 news world and TV stations have to recognize that and staff their new media accordingly, he said. Most can’t do that if it means having several people on duty 24/7, he said, but they may if it means having just one or two.
Smith believes WorldNow has another competitive advantage: a program for building traffic on clients’ websites and then leveraging that increased traffic to build over-the-air viewership.
“We are really good at benchmarking to show where [clients] are against where they should be competitively — to show where their gaps are,” he said. “We also provide workflow training and support for the site so they can have audience growth.”
It’s easier to change the habits of online users than it is regular viewers, Smith said. And once a station has won users over on the Web, it can get them to watch the regular newscasts by placing “hooks” in the online content.
“If we can add a rating point to the over-the-air broadcast, that’s going to generate as much additional revenue for your station as your entire digital strategy,” he said.
Jilted EndPlay’s other major broadcast client is LIN Media, which holds an equity stake in the company and has a seat on its board. LIN also has a small interest in WorldNow, a vestige of the days when LIN used the WorldNow platform.
According to Gannaway, it was LIN’s decision to leave WorldNow for EndPlay four years ago that convinced WorldNow that it had to reinvent itself.
“When you have an equity partner that leaves you, that’s obviously an enormous wake-up call. It made us better,” Gannaway said. “If it weren’t for that, we would never have gone through what we did to change the company.”
Having done so, Smith said he believes WorldNow has the winning formula: “We have reduced the complexity and made it very broadcast specific.”