ABC O&Os, Hearst Television, Cox Media Group, Media General and Raycom Media have formed NewsON, an advertiser-supported service that beginning this fall will let viewers watch their local TV news on smartphones and tablets no matter where they are.
Consumers interested in watching the evening newscasts of many TV stations — in market or out of market — on their smartphones and tablets will have that opportunity this fall.
Five major station groups — the ABC O&Os, Hearst Television, Cox Media Group, Media General and Raycom Media — have banded together in a limited liability company to provide such a service.
Like the underlying medium of broadcasting, NewsON will be free to the public and advertiser supported. Users need only download the appropriate app.
“In the ideal world, we aspire for it to be an iconic destination for people who care about local news,” says Louis Gump, the CEO who developed similar news apps for CNN and The Weather Channel.
“You can see multiple stations potentially in the area where you live and you can also get content from other places you care about, either because you are from there or you have friends who live there.”
According to Gump, the service will offer newscasts live and time-shifted. In addition, it will offer news clips on demand and compilations of clips. “We are going to have some editorial capability to put those [compilations] together.”
The charter station groups insure a large initial footprint for the service. Collectively, they operate 112 news-producing stations in 84 markets, including eight of the Top 10 and 17 of the Top 25. There will be multiple stations in 21 of the markets.
That’s just for starters. NewsON intends to sign on other stations or “affiliates” to stretch the footprint across the entire nation. “I would be ecstatic to see one station out of every market. We would like to serve everybody in the U.S. with content that it relevant to them. That a big audacious goal.
“I’m not assuming that every last station group will participate, but I want them to know that everybody is welcome to participate in some form or fashion.”
Gump says that “some form or fashion” does not include equity participation. NewsOn is still open to others joining the LLC, but that will be a “very small number,” he says.
To participate, affiliates will have to pay a monthly fee, but they will earn a share of the ad revenue, Gump says. The revenue splits have yet to be worked out. “It’s a very attractive deal for the stations,” he says. “The vast majority of the ad revenue goes directly to the stations.”
Also up in the air is the plan for measuring the app audience, Gump says. “We are looking at multiple ways to measure the ad reach and we will be including one or more of those in the early version of the app.”
It’s “reasonable to conclude” that Nielsen would be among them, he says.
The service is designed to be “complementary and additive” to the individual streaming apps that many stations now offer, says Gump, noting that only between 5% and 15% of viewers have bothered to download such apps.
NewsON will be a lean organization — probably fewer than 10 people — with headquarters in Atlanta, says Gump. One key hire has already been made. It is Craig Kirkland, who is joining from CNN as head of product.
How NewsON will sell ads is something of a mystery. Gump says only that the company will have “sales capability,” hinting that NewsON will rely on the sales operations of the equity partners.
Gump credits Roger Keating, senior VP of Hearst Television, as being the prime mover in the venture, but he was not alone in bringing it to fruition. “In order to build this to the large scale, you really have to have multiple companies working together.”
Gump has high hopes for NewsON. “We want a product that people love and treat as one of the top 10 or 15 apps that they use all the time. That’s not saying that every last person out there will use it that way, but a very large audience, measured in millions, will.”