Local radio and print media companies have been threatened by the disruptive forces of the Internet for some years now. Many have survived by jumping into the digital pool and finding ways to remain relevant to their local online audiences and reinvent their businesses over the Internet. Local TV broadcasters are now seeing disruption coming their way like a bullet train, thanks to over-the-top (OTT) video. Consumers, especially younger millennials and Gen-Xers, are consuming their "TV" on mobile devices and many are avoiding the television and TV content altogether. Cord-cutters and cord-nevers are certainly a disruptive force any local broadcaster needs to pay attention to or risk demise. Now, the national broadcast networks (CBS, NBC, PBS, et. al) already have or are planning to take the "over-the-top" plunge with new direct-to-consumer OTT video services, which may leave the local affiliate broadcasters behind. Moreover, local "appointment" TV news and local programming has been left to an increasingly old and diminishing audience.
It all sounds daunting, but the very thing that seems to threaten local media can also be turned into opportunity. OTT video and digital consumer engagement strategies can be a foundation for local media companies to reinvent themselves and remain relevant to their communities. Here's a great story from Ohio about a local media company doing just that, with some other examples from across the country.
I'd like to offer up 3 high-level strategies that can help local media companies in the digital world: over-the-top video (OTT); multichannel networks (MCN); user-generated content (UGC).
Probably the most obvious strategy for local media companies looking to re-expand their audience reach, remain (or become) relevant and create new revenue streams, is to take local news and programming over-the-top (OTT). Many local media companies have been streaming or publishing their content online for many years, but may need to consider expanding beyond their websites to mobile devices, smart TVs, iSTBs (like Roku) and game consoles. Premium content can be monetized through subscription revenue, sponsorship and programmatic ads (advertising dollars are increasingly migrating online). In addition to streaming channels, the OTT audience has become much less interested in "appointment" TV and more interested in "anytime, anywhere" viewing. Therefore, going over-the-top means more than just streaming local channels online. By taking local content over-the-top, not only are you providing more ways for your local audience to engage with and consume your content, but you are also expanding your market reach, perhaps globally, to those people who have an interest in local news, sports, events and other content. A solid OTT strategy includes multiscreen distribution, great user experience (UX), community engagement and interaction, and of course high-quality, relevant content.
Another strategy that may help local media companies reach younger audiences, differentiate and stay relevant, and create new revenue, is to create OTT multichannel networks. There is a new universe of high quality, original video content emerging outside of the "TV" ecosystem. Variety recently published some findings that teens consider more YouTube celebrities to be their favorite stars compared to traditional TV and music celebrities. Obviously this doesn't represent the "TV" audience overall, but it certainly is an ongoing trend that local media companies should not ignore.
A new generation of original video content is being created, outside of the traditional TV ecosystem, and billions of dollars of revenue and market value has be created by multichannel online networks in just the last couple years. Local media companies have an opportunity to leverage their own firmly-implanted local community brand and audience to partner with original video content seeking distribution, through a multichannel network model. An over-the-top MCN model can be extremely valuable for both content creators and "local" OTT networks.
Lastly, great content is being created from many different sources, including individual mobile users. This year, Periscope and Meerkat quickly emerged as the big "social video" story - anyone can be a video broadcaster. Individuals have been empowered with high-quality video recording devices in their pockets, from smartphones to GoPros, which opens the door to engage people to produce local event content. There is no place like local communities where user-generated mobile content is more relevant. Here's a group I found that gets it, "Local Characters, Global Appeal". Local media companies are very well positioned to engage local crews and community to contribute the type of sports, news and event video content that can be aggregated, curated and distributed in a way that is hugely relevant and valuable to its community audience, whether local or global. Local media companies have the opportunity to reinvent how they aggregate, produce and distribute high-quality UGC as an important component of an overall OTT strategy.
These are just a couple ideas that may help local media companies rethink and even reinvent themselves in an era of disruption caused by digital content production and the Internet. Of course, I am happy to discuss how to implement and execute these strategies in more detail, if you'd like to contact me directly by commenting or connecting on LinkedIn or Twitter @phamm3736.
That's how I see it. Your thoughts?
- Paul D Hamm