TV Groups Team Up To Offer Local News App

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.”

BRAND CONNECTIONS

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.”


Comments (7)

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Brian Bussey says:

June 9, 2015 at 9:25 am

the web seems to be a giant black hole that sucks up all data. Remember the old days when stations competed against each other to be the best provider of news and information ? America was better because of it..

Michelle Underwood says:

June 9, 2015 at 9:34 am

Yeah, I really miss the fuzzy picture, the rabbit ears and the loose tubes in the TV…NOT. And the public was not better off when there were only 3 networks telling you what they thought you should think. There are more sources for news than ever, they’re just not all TV.

    Brian Bussey says:

    June 9, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    Last week I visited a old client who sells the best TVs money can buy. ALL of his display TVs are using OVER THE AIR BROADCAST SIGNALS. I WAS WATCHING A 75″, 4K SAMSUNG that might cost more than the house I grew up in and the picture was incredible. “”loose tubes ?”

    Wagner Pereira says:

    June 9, 2015 at 4:18 pm

    If they think that OTA with its bit-starved multicast signal on a 4K UHD TVs look the best instead of say, BluRay, Netflix 4k or the internal 4k demo on the Samsung, then I would not be buying a TV from that store. Just saying….(and another reason ATSC 3.0 is needed).

Grace PARK says:

June 9, 2015 at 2:29 pm

Hope, the problem presented by your view is being addressed in the above innovation. TV stations used to compete in a universe of closed spectrum. When they moved to the Web, they lost that exclusivity, and hence, the ability to compete with each other. Suddenly, a million others were there, and the blip that was a local TV station was worth no more than the blip of any other URL. The idea above at least puts the back into their own space, within which they can again compete with each other. I’m not convinced that NewsON goes far enough, but it’s a step in the right direction. See my old essay: “Creating Spectrum Within Spectrum” http://thepomoblog.com/papers/pomo71.htm

Keith ONeal says:

June 9, 2015 at 11:34 pm

My market has a station owned by Hearst Television and a station owned by the Cox Media Group, and it’s in the Top 20 of the DMAs.

    Linda Stewart says:

    June 12, 2015 at 8:54 am

    So does my hometown–Pittsburgh.


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