As the need for streaming services increases, with local stations beginning to experiment with streaming sports programming, live-streaming advertising opportunities might soon be opening up. Thanks to political advertising, local ad revenues are expected to jump 5.2 percent in 2018, with local TV taking $20.8 billion, according to a forecast by local advertising researcher BIA/Kelsey. But there are no major national elections and no Olympics or World Cup scheduled for 2019 —meaning local TV sellers could benefit from a long-term move toward streaming sports.
Salt Lake streaming
One notable example is Salt Lake City's KSL-TV, an NBC affiliate that began streaming in February. A three-year deal between Major League Soccer (MLS) and Bonneville International lets viewers in the station's broadcast territory stream the Major League Soccer team “Real Salt Lake's” games. In April, the local station CBS Boston also let viewers stream Boston Marathon coverage.
For local stations, streaming such content while moving toward live-streaming advertising offers a way to overcome the limitations of traditional broadcast schedules.
The station also had an app. So far, the app has drawn 30,000-50,000 views per match, more than the team draws to its actual home matches. That allows the station to run ads it would not have been able to via broadcast.
Not only does advertising via live-streaming offer local stations the opportunity to expand upon traditional broadcast, but it helps them keep up with the pace of change the TV industry, as a whole, is currently experiencing.
While traditional TV service remains consistently reliable to advertisers, there is an increasing amount of people moving to OTT, getting their TV needs from the internet rather than from traditional cable providers. The more local TV adapts to change, whether it be through streaming sports or moving toward live-streaming advertising, the better they’ll be able to adapt to shifting viewer behavior and preferences for viewing content.
The race is on!
We are seeing some local TV stations offering streaming options. WABC-TV in New York, for instance, streams the broadcasts of its newscasts. Others are even more inventive: Raycom Media’s KGMB-TV in Honolulu now runs a digital-only "snackable" newscast. As a CNET analysis shows, the "big 5" live-streaming TV services—Hulu with Live TV, PlayStation Vue, DirecTV Now, YouTube TV, and Sling TV—offer the local feeds of CBS, ABC, NBC, and Fox in various markets.
Those streaming services may wind up competing with local TV stations for such fare. YouTube TV, for instance, recently inked an exclusive English-language deal with the Los Angeles Football Club to stream 18 games. The service also has an agreement to stream Seattle Sounders FC matches. The Chicago Fire, another MLS team, has inked a deal for streaming with ESPN+.
The race is on, then, for local stations to begin streaming sports. As Major League Baseball becomes increasingly rare on local TV, streaming minor league baseball would seem to be one option. But soccer, a growing sport in the U.S. that attracts a young demo—the average age of an MLS fan is 40, compared to 57 for MLB, according to MarketWatch—might make more sense.
Brad Smith is the senior vice president, revenue and operations of Videa.