SIGNS OF HOW FAR STATIONS need to go in their digital strategies were glaringly apparent in the recently released RTDNA/Hofstra University survey of local broadcasting. It found that in the fourth quarter of 2014, online amounted to a paltry 3% of their revenue and that mobile didn’t even hit the 1% mark.
That record makes the recently announced NewsON joint venture particularly notable. Backed by major station groups—ABC Owned Television Station Group, Cox Media Group, Hearst Television, Media General and Raycom Media—NewsON plans to launch a free ad supported app sometimes in the fall of 2015. The app will bring live or on demand newscasts to mobile and connected TV devices. The venture will launch with considerable scale, aggregating content from 112 stations in 84 markets, or two-thirds of all U.S. TV homes. And backers expect that number to grow in upcoming months as more station groups join the effort.
NewsON CEO Louis Gump, who brings an impressive pedigree of mobile experience at CNN and The Weather Channel, stresses that NewsON isn’t designed to replace stations’ existing apps and digital platforms. Rather, they hope that the large overall content offering will help them stand out in app stores and reach the broader audience local station apps have struggled to achieve.
“If you have 5% to 15% of people who have downloaded a local station app in a market that still leaves 85% or more that could be users,” he said. “Bringing together all this content in one place wasn’t easy but we think it has the potential to have a significant impact on the market.”