For local broadcasters, over-the-top media (aka OTT, often used to encompass all forms of internet streaming including Connected TV) can provide an opportunity to earn more revenue from the content they’re already producing.
Streaming options like live streams and FAST channels allow smaller television stations to compete against larger streamers by doing what they do best — producing local content.
We spoke with three local broadcasters about how they’re using OTT to find more viewers, expand their brand, and increase their revenue.
WDRB-TV in Louisville, Kentucky
For Cara Sabin at WDRB, the goal of expanding into OTT was to increase revenue by finding more opportunities for sponsorship while also directing viewers back to their native platforms. The station began by streaming the games of Louisville City FC, the city’s minor league soccer team, two years ago.
Fans of the team have come to rely on WDRB for those games, which are occasionally unavailable because of technical or rights issues. “When we don’t have them there, we certainly hear from those viewers who are expecting to be able to tune in and find us,” said Sabin, the station’s digital director.
The station plans to begin streaming high school games this fall, and plans to create more original content in the future. The station earns revenue from a mix of advertising — including digital ad insertion and banner ads — and sponsorship deals.
“Every little piece matters,” said Sabin.
Sabin says that working for a small company allows the team to be more experimental with its OTT streaming decisions.
“It gives you the ability to be nimble, and react and make your decisions on the local level instead of having to go up the corporate hierarchy to do it,” she said.
Draper Digital Media in the Delmarva Peninsula
For Draper Digital Media, OTT has been an opportunity to expand on existing live coverage and experiment with new ideas.
A prime example is the Chincoteague Island Pony Swim, an annual event in Virginia where wild ponies swim to the mainland from the island where they live. The timing of the event revolves around the tides and is generally midmorning, making it inconvenient for live news broadcasts on any of Draper’s local television stations. So for eight years, the full event has been streamed online with full production values, including helicopters, boats and live production trucks.
The channel also uses a mix of streaming and live coverage for big events like parades, where the production is straight-forward and streamlined, said Ethan Holland, vice president at Draper.
“Parades are great for live streaming,” said Holland. “You set a camera up at the beginning, it literally goes by you, you narrate it, and then it’s over.”
Holland and his team have taken a similar approach to original video by focusing on shows where the subject matter is the content, such as cooking shows and house tours.
The house tours show, which began as an OTT original, was so popular that the network has moved it to one of its linear television stations. Holland says the production is simple: The team reaches out to real estate agents and films tours of high-end or unusual houses for sale in the area.
But the focus is not to help sell the house. It is to build a catalog of content that can be used as part of an SEO strategy, and to encourage viewers to spend time binging content.
The simplicity of the concept also extends to sponsorship of the series. Local businesses sponsor episodes and get a shout-out in the middle of the tour. The package also included sponsored content related to the business; for instance, an episode sponsored by a landscaping company could include a segment on landscape design filmed on location, and that separate video would be part of the series catalog online.
“We craft campaigns that fit the client’s needs, and it’s important that we offer a variety of solutions,” said Holland. “The home tours can now be one of them.”
KHQ-TV in Spokane, Washington
The team at KHQ-TV was looking for ways to not just increase viewership, but find more opportunities for ad buys. When team members first launched video, the network doubled its available inventory. Now they are working to balance the needs of the newsrooms with the best opportunities for advertisers.
“We’re still trying to figure out the magic formula,” said Jared Frank, director of digital strategy.
For KHQ, streaming and OTT has radically altered the rhythm of the newsroom. Instead of working toward an evening newscast, the team now produces stories all day long and adds them to the station’s 24-hour streaming channel.
That channel can be found on the station’s website, mobile app and branded OTT app, as well as on FAST channels.
Frank says the station is working to own as much of the distribution of this content as possible, and is wary of becoming too dependent on FAST channels, which he compares to a mini-cable network.
“There are some pennies to be made in that exposure,” said Frank. “But we also want to make sure that we control that, and we find new ways to monetize that.”
For the first year of OTT production, all of KHQ’s content was supported by a single sponsor. Since then, the station has focused on expanding its relationships with TV ad buyers who are looking to reach new audiences.
In the future, Frank hopes to do more with the sports content KHQ has produced over the years. He also hopes to see an increase in the use of metadata in local OTT production, so that someone using these channels can know exactly what they’re going to see and when, which he thinks will help bring in viewers.
“The big guys can produce national content, but who’s going to produce relevant local content for your viewers?” Frank said. “Who can produce that relevant local content that really matters to people, timely content that really matters to people? I think local broadcasters have a huge opportunity right there.”
Interested in developing streaming revenues? Don’t miss a session on this topic Aug. 2 at the upcoming LMA Fest in Chicago: Revenue Streams in Streaming, featuring panelists from Google, Nexstar and Allen Media Broadcasting.