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News orgs grapple with OTT discoverability

News orgs grapple with OTT discoverability

Creating an app to deliver unique content OTT is only a small part of the equation for local news. Stations moving into OTT need their target viewers to be able to find their apps on various platforms, and that can be tricky.


Capitol Broadcasting’s WRAL Raleigh, N.C., was an early adopter of over-the-top (OTT) content, but getting the public to discover it easily was a problem from the outset.

“How do we, the local media, become valuable in that space, be something they want on that platform?” asks Shelly Leslie, GM of audience development at Capitol Broadcasting. “There’s not a lack of content, there’s a lack of ease of finding that content.”

Creating an app to deliver unique content OTT is only a small part of the equation for local news. WRAL and other news organizations moving into OTT need their target viewers to be able to find their apps on various platforms.

There are a host of methods news organizations looking to “get found” can employ. They include on-air promotion; contests and giveaways; advertising on third-party networks; featuring original content available only via OTT; properly naming apps; and paying for visibility on OTT platforms.

Some platforms like Roku don’t allow keywords, which many viewers expect to be able to use, much like with a Google search. If a viewer doesn’t know the app’s specific name, it may be unfindable, and paying to be featured on a platform may not make financial sense for a local broadcaster.

Searching for apps by name within some platform interfaces, such as with the Amazon Fire TV Stick, is clunky, as it requires spelling out an app’s name letter by letter using a remote control, arrow keys and a plot of letters on the screen. Finally, so many apps are available that it can be difficult for viewers to find what they’re looking for.

One of the most useful ways to promote OTT apps is marketing them through their legacy broadcasts, which is one of the methods WRAL uses.

Gone are the days when all content was in one location — on the television — and people were willing to pay $250 per month for hundreds of cable channels they didn’t watch, Leslie observes. Now, she says, viewers are piecing together a patchwork of streaming apps to get the content they want to watch.

“I follow the mantra of ‘fish where the fish are’,” Leslie says. “I know where my local audience is, and where our loyal viewers are. We have big bullhorns called television stations” and can tell people how and where to find the app as well as what kind of content is available via the app. The website is also crucial for promotions, she adds.

WRAL is “strategic about how we promote what content we have on the app,” she says.

One way to increase viewer awareness of an organization’s apps is combining legacy promotion with a contest or giveaway, says Susan Bell, senior product manager at TownNews. Contestants might be required to download the app to be eligible to win the prize, which might be an Apple TV or an Amazon Fire TV Stick, she says.

“We’ve seen huge number increases from those who did marketing promotions versus those who didn’t,” Bell says.

Paid advertising campaigns is another method that news organizations can use.

Catherine Badalamente, Graham Television’s VP of digital media, says Graham stations have had success with paid marketing campaigns with video ads on third-party networks and platforms like Roku to drive up awareness and downloads of OTT apps. KSAT San Antonio, Texas, she says, is seeking a “lofty” five-fold increase of daily unique users this year. The station has had a lot of organic growth and is seeing increasing numbers each month, even though it is running the campaigns on and off, she says.

“All that is happening from people seeking us out,” Badalamente says.

KSAT has been a leader in experimenting with OTT programming, focusing particularly on local and unique programming, she says. “It feels almost like back to the old days of television, and that’s where we think the value lies,” Badalamente says.

Offering unique content through streaming apps, rather than “regurgitating” what goes out over the air, is one way to incentivize downloads of the app, says TownNews’ Bell. The “common sense” approach of doing what a station does well applies to OTT content as well, she says.

In January, KSAT kicked off a digital/OTT-only newscast at 9 p.m., Badalamente says. “We’re getting excited about digital-only programming,” she adds. “San Antonio is really the market that is all in on OTT and testing new ideas.”

OTT is still in its early days, and much of what’s going into programming is experimental. The goal for the year, Badalamente says, is to get the programming “to a better place” with a primary focus on livestreaming.

An appropriate name for a channel can be the difference between being findable and not. Keywords work differently or may not even be available on some OTT platforms, for example, and some viewers may recognize call letters while others will not. Bell points to WDRB Fox41 Louisville, which is the name of the station’s streaming app. It hits on the keywords a viewer is likely to seek, she says.

Because discovery is so difficult and advertising through OTT platforms can be so costly, Katie Larson, VP of brand strategy and innovation at Magid, says broadcasters gain the most by leveraging the platform they already have to point viewers to the OTT app. WSB, Cox Media’s ABC affililiate in Atlanta, did an hour-long digital-only special each night about the Super Bowl and used television and social media coverage to point viewers to those shows on connected TV, Larson says.

“Stations that develop strategy around big events in their markets are seeing their numbers double month over month, just from the marketing,” Larson says. “Awareness of local media is incredibly low, and when consumers find out that it’s there, they seek it out, they get excited. We see the numbers grow significantly month over month because of that new discovery.”

In the past, Larson says, a number of local television stations were delivering content on OTT, but without really marketing it. Last year, she says, that approach shifted and local stations more focused on marketing their OTT content.

Read the full post on TVNewsCheck.

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