While the growth of digital may be disrupting broadcasters, many are finding ways to compete by leverage their scale and boosting their relevance with original offerings.
After nearly two decades of trying to figure out how digital media works — specifically when it comes to making money from it — broadcasters could be on the brink of something big if they broaden the scope of their offerings, an industry leader said Thursday.
“If we change the way we go to market now … we should see our revenue double, triple, quadruple,” Roger Keating, Hearst Television’s SVP of digital media said. “We have been fighting the battle of the Internet for the first 20 years. Finally the Internet has come around to embrace the amazing value of video and content.”
Part of a panel on digital disruption at the TVB Forward conference in New York, Keating said it’s critical that broadcasters leverage their scale and relevance if they want to be successful in the digital space.
According to BIA/Kelsey Managing Director Rick Ducey, who moderated the panel, just 2%-3% of local TV stations revenue comes from digital ad sales.
Keating says he doesn’t see that changing much without substantial improvements on the part of broadcasters, which involve moving beyond promoting station sites.
“There is only so much we can do through our station branded sites and apps,” Keating said. Selling only those kinds of sites is “a real impediment” to the industry’s success, he said. “If we go to market for the next 20 years the way we have for the first 20, we won’t see results.”
The way Keating sees it, Hearst is about to offer advertisers the necessary scale with NewsON, an app that the Hearst, along with the ABC, Cox, Hearst, Media General and Raycom station groups, will launch later this fall.
He says the app, which lets users watch newscasts from participating stations, accomplishes that by tapping broad-ranging viewers “who aren’t our deep loyalists,” while also widening the scope of advertising options.
Other panelists are navigating the digital space differently.
Tegna SVP of Programming Bob Sullivan says his group is seeing success with the Justice Network, a crime-fighting channel that launched on Tegna’s subchannels at the start of this year.
Geo-targeting content — i.e., alerting viewers when a crime-related story being featured in a show is based in their community — has been a boon to gaining audiences and advertisers, he said. “From a revenue standpoint, business has grown. “Having The Justice Network in the digital channel space, most of us would agree, has got to have something to do with it.”
Yet, Sullivan added, “the key to the future, we believe, is in our ability to create original content … that is relevant to the communities we serve” — something he sees as doable.
“Can we play in this space? We think we can.”
Tom O’Brien, Nexstar Broadcasting’s EVP of digital media, said he sees broadcasters expanding what they already do best — television — into the digital world is also critical to success. “It’s how do we expand the ecosystem of what we have to offer,” he said, adding that digital currently accounts for 10% of his company’s overall revenue. “We are trying to take a holistic view of it.”
Yet, panelists agreed, there are still a lot of unknowns in the digital space, and what it takes to navigate it successfully.
“We are trying to figure it out. We have to figure it out, ” Sullivan said. “The advertisers want to figure it out. I want to figure out how to tell stories for those advertisers on these new platforms to make it relevant and for them to spend money with us.”
Read all of TVNewsCheck’s TVB Forward coverage here.