THE PRICE POINT

Price Point | As Winter Storm Coverage Proves, Streaming Isn’t Everything

Last week’s winter storms were a reminder that audiences, enamored of streaming though they might be, still tune in to live TV coverage as essential viewing. Networks would do well to take that into account and move forward with integrated distribution strategies that include their legacy station partners.

NBC’s announcement last week that it will joining ABC and Fox in no longer releasing Live + Same Day ratings to the press came as no surprise. It was an acknowledgement that today’s consumers control their own viewing schedules, not the other way around.

The now-ancient VHS machine was the first technology to crack the idea of fixed TV schedules. One thousand dollars was a lot of money in the mid-1970s, but consumers were willing to pay that high price for the convenience of recording their favorite shows. It was the DVR, though, that changed the game. The simplicity of the DVR empowered consumers, giving them true control of their time. From the DVR came every other trend, from binge watching to acceptance of streaming video.

Seeing all of this, the networks seem to have concluded that the future is about on-demand streaming and nothing else. This idea was reinforced by Disney’s announcement, also last week, of record subscribers. Looking at the numbers, one analyst predicted that Disney+ might eventually pass Netflix in paid subscriptions.

After the Disney announcement, one could almost feel the panic in the other network boardrooms. CBS had already dropped every other priority to promote its Paramount streamer but will probably now double down. NBC, always happy to fire before aiming, will no doubt do the same for Peacock. Perhaps Peacock could hatch some eggs, but let me stop lest they get ideas.

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As important as all this is, something else happened last week that was equally important. The majority of the nation was engulfed by deadly winter storms. Guess what consumers in those stormy areas overwhelmingly chose to watch? It wasn’t Disney+.

Consumers watched local news, and they watched it live. They watched local weather coverage and more local weather coverage and even more local weather coverage. They also watched the commercials, which were also live.

BRAND CONNECTIONS

This week, many of those same consumers will continue to watch their favorite local newscasts live and on station apps. They will also watch streaming video, mobile video, DVR video, other app video and much more. They will do so on a wide range of screens and devices because today’s consumer devotes more time to content than at any other period in history. Theirs is a very broad world that even includes print.

Rather than putting all their eggs (sorry) in one basket, today’s networks need integrated strategies that take into account all of their distribution systems, including their legacy station partners who not only bring strong brands to the table, but contribute billions in cash program payments. Such a strategy seems logical and simple, but the latest bright shiny object is oh so appealing.

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Let’s hope the networks realize streaming, though incredibly important, is not their only opportunity for the future. If not, stronger local stations may eventually have to look at alternate program sources, and that would be a shame for everyone.


Hank Price is a media consultant and leadership coach. He is the author of Leading Local Television, a guide to leadership for television general managers, as well as those who aspire to top leadership. Price spent 30 years managing TV stations for Hearst, CBS and Gannett, including WBBM Chicago and KARE Minneapolis, as well as three other stations. Earlier, he was a consultant for Frank N. Magid Associates. Price also served as senior director of Northwestern University’s Media Management Center and is currently director of leadership development for the School of Journalism and New Media at Ole Miss. He is the author of two other books.


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RustbeltAlumnus2 says:

February 22, 2021 at 9:57 am

Or just listen to local radio instead.


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