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all it what you will – the video
revolution, the most disrup-
tive innovation since the rise
of the Internet, the OTT tsunami, or yet-
another distribution platform for local
news – 2015 has been a fast-paced year
for those of us working in the Over-The-
Top environment. And 2016 promises to
raise that bet.
What exactly is OTT? Gordon Borrell
put it succinctly in an introduction this
summer: “Skipping the FCC, cable and
satellite red tape, OTT – or ‘over the top’
– means surpassing set-top boxes and
delivering video programming directly to
television via broadband Internet access.”
Consider these recent headlines:
n The number of households using de-
vices to stream video to TVs is quickly
closing in on the total number of cable
households in the U.S.
n By 2018, one in five U.S. households
will not subscribe to cable or satellite
the U.S. will be regularly using a con-
nected TV device.
n Between 2013
and 2019, it’s
sales of stream-
ing devices will
jump by nearly
In addition to the continued pro-
jected growth in this space, a majority of
U.S. homes currently use OTT streaming
services to access entertainment, infor-
mation and news at home and at work.
And though the market as a whole is
still fragmented across the devices peo-
ple use to stream content - Roku, Apple
TV, Amazon Fire TV, gaming consoles or
smart TVs - local media organizations,
for a large part, are still absent from this
growing environment. Why?
The reasons we’ve heard at Calkins
Digital are not surprising, but the simi-
larity across the board has been. Since
August, we’ve spoken team-to-team with
dozens of local media companies across
the U.S., from Washington to Texas,
sharing our OTT video strategy. Calkins
Media newspaper and television station
properties launched some of the first
local media channels on OTT starting
in 2013, so the following questions and
concerns sound familiar:
n What is OTT? I/we/the boss doesn’t
get what this is or why we should
n How do we attain a return on our in-
vestment in OTT technology and apps
if the audience is likely small?
n And, content : our video strategy
isn’t far enough along; we don’t have
enough evergreen content; and we’re
worried about the video quality, all
make the list.
There are no silver-bullet answers
here, but through a quick survey of my
team, here are some ideas:
To the first issue, maybe we can
blame a clunky name or the fact that
OTT is used to refer to not only stream-
ing devices, like the Amazon Fire TV,
but also content delivery, like the Hulu
app on your iPad. Despite that, educating
ourselves and others on the key trends
and audience behaviors in this growing
environment will continue to be critical.
To the content issue: You’ve heard it
before and here it comes again: iterate,
iterate, iterate. Pushing a video strategy,
setting new content goals and launching
branded channels in OTT are processes
(not events!) that take time. In local
media, our default is set at getting things
right on the first go – a news story, a
broadcast, a client’s ad. But perfection
on the technique in which we deliver our
local news and information shouldn’t be
the aim in this quickly changing envi-
ronment. Measuring the growing
audience on what’s working
while growing capabili-
ties and content is a
At Calkins, for
moved into creating
linear channels in our
OTT apps, in addition
to local news and shows
on demand, because we
can see that engagement
for these playlists is high.
And finally, the thorny
ROI issue: Typical of early innovation,
there’s no easy path to investment return
on already limited resources in local
media. For us, the potential to reach
new audiences by following the eyeballs
was an opportunity too great to pass up.
Flipping the question around, how do we
defend our brands? In other words, what
is the cost of NOT establishing our local
media brands as the go-to stop for our
markets on platforms like Roku, Ama-
zon Fire TV and Apple TV? That
was enough for us to invest.
At December’s NewsTECH-
Forum, David Rhodes, presi-
dent of CBS News, was bull-
ish on the future of news in
his keynote talk with Harry
Jessell, publisher/owner of
TVNewsCheck. What will
continue unabated look-
ing forward, said Rhodes,
will be the need for strong,
accurate, original report-
ing. Combine that with the
strength of the consumer
adoption of streaming technologies and,
for us, the OTT revolution isn’t coming.
It’s already here.
Director of Strategic Partnerships
Streaming content: the revolution is already here
...perfection on the technique in which we deliver our local
news and information shouldn’t be the aim in this quickly changing
environment. Measuring the growing audience on what’s working
while growing capabilities and content is a powerful process.
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Emily Dresslar, left on panel, at the NewsTech Forum.
A golden opportunity to hear more about OTT will be at this month’s
Mega-Conference in Austin, Texas.
Brandon Hughes, publisher of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, will
share highlights from Morris’ development of AGNTV in Amarillo.
And, Logan Molen, SVP and COO of The Bakersfield Californian, will
showcase their video strategy which includes 26-40 hours of live stream
programming an on demand video across a number of OTT platforms.
More about the Mega-Conference on page 5.
Mega-Con session spotlight
'Going Big on
Video and OTT'
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