With NewsOn, Local News Makes Play For Mobile, OTT Audiences

NewsOnSince some people will never tune into their local 5 o’clock news broadcast, many local news stations are setting aside competitive concerns to partner with NewsOn.

The app brings 141 local news broadcasts to OTT and mobile audiences.

“While these companies compete fiercely with each other in local markets, they see the value of NewsOn,” said CEO Louis Gump, a former mobile exec at CNN and The Weather Channel. “We can bring them new users, open up an advertising revenue stream on mobile and OTT and help them as people’s viewing habits expand.”

Launched in November, NewsOn is owned by many of the broadcast stations that use the app, including ABC-owned TV stations, Cox Media, Hearst Television, Hubbard, Media General, Raycom and Sinclair. Meredith just joined the group, though it doesn’t have a stake in the company, adding three of its 17 stations, with more to come. Eventually, NewsOn wants to onboard enough stations to cover all 210 DMAs.

Gump’s first task at NewsOn was getting the user experience right. Though the company declined to share download figures, it has had double-digit user growth since January. In April, mobile users grew 33%, thanks to stations promoting the app on-air and support from app distributors.

With steady user growth, NewsOn also is moving to fulfill its promise to the local news stations: better monetization, which happens in two ways.

For live and time-shifted broadcasts, stations slot in their own ads during the broadcasts. They can choose between selling that added audience via GRPs, the TV currency, or doing dynamic ad insertion, with digitally ad-served ads.

“Both are going to work,” Gump said. “It’s going to come down to the business strategy of the station group.”

But OTT and mobile measurement aren’t as advanced as TV and digital measurement. Each station group’s capabilities vary.

Still, Gump sees the industry moving forward quickly. He expects “significant advances” in measurement, including GRP measurement, to happen over the next six to 12 months that would help stations measure NewsOn’s multiscreen viewing environment.

NewsOn will chip in with its own monetization, too. It’s creating sponsorships and pre-roll ads that will run across all platforms. The stations monetize the ads within the broadcast, while NewsOn controls the pre-roll ad before the spot. Making money for its stations is the main focus.

“The ad model heavily favors the stations, and any participating station should see a handsome return,” Gump said.

As NewsOn builds out its advertising business, it will add more demand partners, tech and, hopefully, platforms. It currently offers only Roku on OTT.

“OTT has been especially strong,” Gump said. “If you compare session times, OTT by a significant margin has the longest session time,” which is consistent with usage patterns of OTT vs. mobile.

The app draws comparisons to E. W. Scripps’ Newsy or Watchup. The latter includes both local broadcasts and content from the likes of The Verge, CNN and Bloomberg. While NewsOn’s only OTT platform is Roku, Watchup connects to the Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Nintendo’s Wii U and the Xbox 360.

Gump is very conscious of the effects of scale on NewsOn’s audience. That’s one reason why the local stations saw value in a single app over hundreds of individual ones.

“There is a network effect,” he said. “The more stations we have in a market, the more viewing there is. The presence of that station helps the others.”

Plus, people use NewsOn to view local news content in their hometown or college town, for example. For local news, that opens stations up to a completely new audience.

And when tragedies happen, like the shooting in Orlando, users can access the local network’s coverage, offering them an on-the-ground perspective and giving the local reporting greater reach.

“We are trying to be a catalyst for innovation with local news,” Gump said.

TV stations want people to care about watching the news more than where they view it.

“The viewing is strong,” Gump said, “and the viewing platforms are fragmented.”


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