The company's Newsy digital video service now produces around 30 pieces of short-form video content per day. While Newsy is on 21 OTT platforms, its GM, Blake Sabatinelli, says the company is very much pursuing a “plant the flag” approach in anticipation of the coming consolidation, which he views as inevitable.
How Scripps Is Driving Toward OTT Success
As audiences continue switching to over-the-top video options, the nascent OTT ecosystem is undergoing a rapid proliferation of apps and services. At TVNewsCheck’s annual NewsTECHForum in New York on Monday, Blake Sabatinelli, general manager of E.W Scripps’ Newsy, explained how one digital video news service is building and monetizing an audience within this evolving industry.
“When you put together the ease of digital advertising and the value that you can get from television advertising, and you mash them together, that’s basically what you get in over-the-top delivery,” Sabatinelli said in a one-on-one interview with NetNewsCheck Editor Michael Depp. “And that’s the model that we’re building right now.”
That model has allowed Newsy to grow significantly since its acquisition by Scripps in 2013. The digital video service now produces around 30 pieces of short-form video content per day, with average segments clocking in at about 75 seconds. This content is available in on-demand and linear formats on OTT platforms including Apple TV, Roku, Sling TV, Watchable, Roku and Amazon Fire TV, as well its website, Newsy.com.
While advertisers were initially hesitant to invest big money in OTT platforms, Sabatinelli said that any skepticism has largely disappeared in the past year or two. “It’s a traditional ad server, it’s putting data sets together, and it’s bringing that first-party and third-party data to your advertising partners.” Essentially, monetizing over-the-top video content isn’t much different from monetizing other types of video content, he said.
The main distinction, however, is fragmentation. While Newsy is on 21 OTT platforms, Sabatinelli said that the company is very much pursuing a “plant the flag” approach in anticipation of the coming consolidation, which he views as inevitable. “The most interesting part of the business right now is that it’s so fragmented,” he said. “But three years from now, we’re not going to look out and say ‘Oh there’s 700 different skinny packages.’ ”
Asked which providers seem poised to capitalize on that consolidation, Sabatinelli highlighted popular services like Apple TV, Roku, Sling and Pluto TV, while not discounting the possibility that a new player could quickly alter the ecosystem. “It’s these little companies that you don’t think about that swoop in and change the industry,” he said.
In discussing the challenges that OTT poses for services like Newsy, Sabatinelli did not mince words. “Creating a full-blown video newsroom is expensive,” Sabatinelli said. “Creating a newsroom that turns high-quality content in a fast manner with a proprietary software and all the infrastructure needed is even more expensive. And then signing deals with companies like Sling can suck sometimes.”
But as cable-averse young people flock to the OTT option, the reward for making it past these initial hurdles — into the so-called ‘walled off garden’ — is well worth the effort. “I think you’re going to see more and more ad dollars shift away from broadcast,” he said. “We do really good rates.”
To listen to a recording of this panel session, click here.
Read all about the NewsTECHForum here.