STIRR Compiles COVID-19 News Conferences
In early March, free streaming platform STIRR TV launched the coronavirus-dedicated COVID-19 News channel. And it took only six hours.
Technically speaking, the team at the Sinclair Broadcast Group-owned OTT service had already run the drill in January over the course of a couple of days to unveil STIRR’s 2020 Live election news channel.
Springing up quickly and featuring live feeds of campaign events without an anchor or opinions afterward, it moved into the service’s top 10 most-watched channels.
That is until the coronavirus pandemic took hold of the U.S.
With the rapid ramp-up of 2020 Live under its belt, STIRR moved swiftly in response to the crisis in early March to get the commercial-free COVID-19 News channel off the ground.
Overtaking its low-viewership, lifestyle-oriented STIRR Life station, COVID-19 News, like 2020 Live, delivers programming largely consisting of back-to-back press conferences without commentary that moves from the East to West Coast.
Sinclair says the need for the channel became clear as government press conferences on the coronavirus began to proliferate. And the more they made available in a single clearinghouse, the better.
“While people may find a press conference coming out of Washington, D.C., or New York helpful, they would absolutely prefer to see one from the state they live in or the city if the mayor is doing a press conference,” says Adam Ware, GM of STIRR. “And so that is what we started to add.”
Ware says the channel looks to cover press conferences from every region in the country as the day progresses. “We will find ourselves doing 12 hours of back-to-back press conferences from 9 a.m. till whenever the last West Coast one ends,” he says. “We do it seven days a week.”
Press conferences flow from Sinclair’s national desk, which controls the switching from feed to feed and produces the compilation programming that occurs after the last conference of the day. That programming, composed of helpful coronavirus-related tips and feel-good/inspirational content, is drawn from Sinclair stations across the country and runs until press conferences pick up again the following day.
From the channel’s launch in the week of March 2, Ware says unique users are up 218% and total hours viewed are up 209% and COVID-19 News is part of STIRR’s top 4 lineup as viewership continues to rise with just over 2.15 million downloads through March 19.
Ware says that the average engagement time on the channel is 41 minutes. Seventy percent of that comes from connected TV devices like Roku, Amazon Fire and AppleTV, with the remaining 30% coming from mobile devices.
For now, Sinclair isn’t monetizing the channel and has no foreseeable plans to do so. “It just didn’t seem like the thing to do,” Ware says. “These are not TV shows. This is public service programming.”
Ware says as the pandemic continues, the channel’s content is likely to change, though how and when is uncertain for now. “It’s still too early to say, but we continue to refine the channel and its content in real time,” he says. “We’ll let the channel evolve naturally and continually look for ways to keep it relevant and helpful to viewers.”