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do you help these folks take their video journalism skills to the levels needed for this
A The first hurdle is not there any more which was cost of equipment. Today’s
smart phone shoots better video than $25,000 broadcast cameras of 10 years
ago. Training is out there and many journalism organizations teach video reporting
classes. We brought in trainers to all our newspapers to work with newspaper reporters.
All of the new reporters that are hired are multimedia journalists who can write, shoot
and edit video. You also don’t have to create all the videos yourself. There are stringers
and freelancers who can help fill in the need for video packages or just shooting b-roll
for things you use your team to assemble. We work with a partner Wochit on our digital
side that makes video news creation very easy.
Q What additional resources would an average local media company need to make
a concerted effort with OTT? Equipment? ‘On-air’ talent? Video production
A My observation and experience has been the publisher or CEO has to say we are
going to make video an initiative and we are going to do it in a scalable and
sustainable way. I’ve spoken to newsroom leaders who call us to kick the tires and then
need to go and sell it up in the organization.
I’ve also spoken to digital leads who need to go and sell it to the newsroom but that
never goes anywhere because of the inertia of the newsroom. They usually end up with
a solution of starting a separate video group. Then the other side of the equation is a
publisher saying we are going to make video an initiative, they hire 10-20 people with
broadcast backgrounds, buy equipment and build a studio. They end up shutting it
down because of the cost structure.
Mike Jameson probably told this story at the Innovation Conference but we retrained
our photographers and photo editors to become videographers. We trained our report-
ers to shoot and edit video to go with their stories. One of the most brilliant things I
saw was, for two years or so, we shot the daily update in the middle of the newsroom. It
made it a “thing” that everyone saw and wanted to be part of rather than having a studio
in a hidden area. We built our operation in a very sustainable way and added only
one incremental person who was specifically dedicated to video. Everyone else was
Our original on-air talent started as a reporter who was on staff when the video
initiative started. When she left, Trish Hartman – who had been a reporter in our high
school program when she was a teenager – joined us after starting her career as a TV re-
porter in a smaller Pennsylvania market. Trish recently left after being recruited by the
ABC affiliate in Philadelphia, the #4 TV market. It’s a great recruiting story because no
young reporter would ever think they could jump to the #4 TV market by going through
a newspaper. Our new anchor, Carol Erickson, was on-air at the CBS affiliate before she
Regarding OTT, we built all the technology in-house. Our needs were very specific
to our strategy and our internal systems. There was also a lot of experimentation that we
wanted to do along the way.
Q What are your stations? Brands?
A Our stations/brands are directly tied to our local media brands. I am very
surprised by the adoption differences between TV and newspapers. I’m also
very surprised at the usage difference. TV seems to have a much more loyal audience
than print. I’m sure it’s the same folks who missed the evening newspaper. Print has a
much smaller but equally loyal audience.
Q What kind of results are you seeing so far? Subscribers? Advertisers? Audience
feedback? And, how are regional broadcast stations reacting to this work?
A So far there’s a buzz factor. It’s something that’s unique to us as many of our
local competitors do not have an OTT presence. Probably the most shocking
response is from the elementary and high school crowd who see our content and ask if
we are a newspaper. The best response we had was “no we’re a local media company
but we do print a newspaper too”. OTT seems to make us very relevant to the younger
audiences in ways our website doesn’t any more.
Regarding how the regional broadcasters reaction, I’m sure they are taking note or
they would not have recruited our anchor if they thought our quality was not great.
Q Let’s talk about monetization. What’s the biggest revenue bucket? Best pathways for
A Right now it’s completely ad supported by sponsored pre-rolls. We don’t break
out OTT as a separate buy. Our OTT channels are integrated with our ad serving
system that deliver ads to our web and mobile system. We never sell on a CPM basis.
We sell on a share of voice and create scarcity. Example, you have five ad spots available
for $x/month; when they are sold out the rate increases until you have open inventory.
Going forward we have two other monetization strategies. The first is linear video.
Linear is simply what you think of as traditional TV. Shows just play at pre-designated
times. That is different from VOD where the end user starts and plays a video. Ev-
erything we do has a linear component to it. The difference between linear and VOD
economics is staggering especially for smaller market products like us.
Digital subscriptions are a huge part of our initiative. We believe in the “digital bur-
rito” strategy. Think about Amazon Prime as the best example. You could get two day
free shipping or access to 19,000 free movies or 500,000 books or free music for $99/year.
Any of those four things may or may not get you to subscribe but the value of all is a no-
brainer. We offer our OTT VOD programs as part of our digital burrito.
Q Can you comment on what you are charging subscribers?
A Right now, OTT VOD access will be part of the burrito package. Access is
included with your digital or print/digital monthly subscription starting at $9.99/
month. It also gets you web and mobile access.
Q Tell us about your promotional efforts to attract audience.
A We promote to our core audience via newspaper and web. On the broadcast
side we mention the OTT platforms on every newscast and run promos. One of
the things that we learned and is always a question from other media companies is
about getting OTT discoverable in the OTT app stores. The answer is you don’t want to
be. You get a lot of “tire kickers” but the true growth and loyalty comes from your core
audience who use OTT as an extension of how they are currently using you.
Q What is the outlook for internet-connected homes to switch from traditional TV
viewing to OTT devices streaming content?
A I don’t think it’s an if. It’s a when and how quickly. Cable has made it very
difficult to cut the cord in my opinion. There is a lot of “a la carte” programming
as there is where cord cutters can buy subscriptions direct from Sling TV or Sony for the
most popular channel packages out there now, but it’s still cheaper to get internet and a
small cable package. I think cable will exist but its penetration will be nowhere near
what it is today. Ironically, I think there will be a rebirth of over-the-air linear television
viewing. The sale of TV antennas is probably higher now that it was 10 years ago.
I would make sure that I have the ability to create great video and a scalable and
sustainable way to keep it going. I would retrain my newsroom to shoot and edit video. I
would build a few shows that spoke to the community. I would try to solve a problem and
unfilled need. If you’re in a fringe market not serviced by a TV station then you’re in good
shape. If you’re in a market where there are three TV stations you’re not solving a problem.
I would make sure I had a sales team that can sell video and make sure I have a staff or
resources to produce video ads.
One major pitfall I’ve seen is trying to sell video pre-rolls on a CPM basis. A million video
views in a month are really hard to get. A $40 CPM is even harder to get. Put them together
and you have about a $500,000/year business. That probably won’t cover the expense it took
you to get a million video business. Most non-metro local media companies will never get
close to 1 million video views in a month. 100,000 are really hard to get for smaller markets.
For smaller markets take a look at linear video. In a 24/7 linear channel there are about
600,000 15-second advertising spots in a year. Think about the economics of delivering an
unfragmented audience to advertisers at $1 or more per spot.
OTT is a distribution mechanism that only works if you have compelling video content
and a commitment to satisfying community needs. We have been very blessed by having
amazing video content to put in our OTT platform. For those who want to see our video and
our TVE mobile iOS app, we just released a new app last week, see the link below.
You can download the Bucks County TV Everywhere app for iPhone by going to the
Apple App Store listing here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/bucks-county-tv-everywhere/
Tips & Best Practices
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