Hearst Television began an experiment last year to see if there was a market for hyper-local streaming content closely tied to the markets served by its 26 TV stations.
The answer, they soon discovered, is yes. Andrew Fitzgerald, senior VP of streaming services for Hearst Television, details the company’s decision to expand the original content featured on the Very Local free streaming platform on the latest episode of Variety‘s weekly podcast “Strictly Business.”
More from Variety
Very Local has had an encouraging start thanks to the rising tide of viewership for FAST channels, or free ad-supported streaming television, and the growing numbers of broadband-only U.S. homes that don’t have access to local broadcast TV stations. That amounts to a looming existential crisis for local broadcast TV stations, which explains why Hearst is tapping its considerable resources to experiment with reaching local viewers in new ways.
Very Local serves as a central hub for all local newscasts produced across Hearst’s TV stations. They’re made available on a time-delayed basis but without any geographic boundaries.
“When we launched the product, there were two trends we thought were really interesting. The first was the growth in broadband only consumers. And as that population continues to grow, and indeed, as that growth accelerates in markets around the United States, there are more and more consumers that don’t have easy access to local broadcast news,” Fitzgerald tells “Strictly Business. “Our goal with Very Local was to connect those folks with our local broadcast news. The second interesting trend has been the growth in demand for AVOD services.”
Very Local is in its infancy, but the hope is that it becomes a funnel of sorts to bring streaming-centric viewers into Hearst’s local orbit, and to strengthen ties with viewers who are already engaged with the mothership TV stations. Hearst outlets serve such large- and mid-size markets as Boston, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Milwaukee and Omaha.
“We’re really looking at either an audience of folks that just are not consuming linear channels, and so we’re sort of offering them the local news and more,” Fitzgerald said. “And then for audiences that are consuming content on our existing linear channel, they’re already in that market. We’re really viewing Very Local as an opportunity for them to deepen their engagement with that local station.”
“Strictly Business” is Variety’s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of media and entertainment. New episodes debut every Wednesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher and SoundCloud.
Best of Variety