The Skinny on Skinny Bundles

For years, the business model cable companies have revolved around is of the “here’s a whole bunch of stuff you don’t watch alongside some stuff you do” variety and, understandably, many consumers don’t care for paying for items they don’t remotely bother with.  But times they are a-changing and in an attempt to stop cord-cutting, the concept of “skinny bundles” has evolved – or, as Fox’s COO Chase Carey says, cable packages “have to be concocted with the consumer in mind.”1 A skinny bundle, then, is an attempt to woo consumers with cheaper packages featuring less of the programming they don’t want.  So what does this mean for TV?

The concept of skinny bundling was born in early 2015. At the beginning of that year, so-called virtual multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs), including Dish Network’s Sling and Sony’s PlayStation Vue, launched. These new products offer consumers a select group of channels delivered over the Internet at a discounted price. Shortly after Sling and PlayStation Vue launched, Verizon introduced its own offering, go90. Apple, long rumored to be interested in the TV space, is still formulating its plan.4

Over the summer the share value of the likes of Disney, ESPN, Time Warner and Viacom fell markedly as consumers declined to re-sign contracts and take on another period of paying through the nose for hundreds of ad-infested channels they never use. ESPN alone has lost more than three million subscribers in the last nine months.2

Here are some basic facts2:

  • US consumers pay an average of $92 a month for cable TV
  • “Add-ons” for set-top boxes and routers brings the total average cost to $125 per


  • This for hundreds channels – many of which are dross
  • Subscribers regularly watch just 17 channels out of the 500 they have to pay for.

When consumers don’t have a choice, these types of business models thrive. But once the Netflixes of the world established their dominance, cable companies realized it was time to change things up.

Skinny Bundles





Example: Apple TV’s current skinny bundle ecosystem

In a move as recently as Aug ’16, Dish Network introduced “Flex Pack,” allowing customers to buy a basic bundle and one additional channel pack for $39.99 a month. The basic bundle includes 50 networks like AMC, CNN, Food Network and FX, but won’t include broadcast networks like ABC, CBS , NBC and Fox or cable juggernauts like ESPN or Fox News. Those channels will only be available in separate add-on tiers, each ranging in price from $4 to $10 extra a month. The broadcast tier, for instance, costs $10. Customers can also add on premium networks like HBO and Showtime.3  Said Warren Schlicting, Dish’s EVP of Marketing, Programming & Media Sales, “people are sick and tired of our industry and these giant bundles. What we are trying to do is give the customer choice.”

The downside to a skinny bundle is that they often exclude many low- and mid-tier networks such as Oxygen, BBC America, IFC, Destination America, Nat Geo Wild and WGN America. L.E.K. Consulting surveyed consumers to determine their interest in skinny bundles and to find out which features, channel combinations and price points appealed most to them. The bottom line was that, for those types of networks, the future is uncertain. Worst-case scenarios show revenue declines so large as to call into question the ability of low- to mid-tier cable networks to remain profitable without making drastic changes.4

And that, friends, is the skinny.





OTT Content Means OTT Revenue

OTT is rapidly becoming a way to increase revenue and major corporations are piling in. At its heart, Over The Top (OTT) content is the term used for the delivery of film and TV content via the Internet, without requiring users to subscribe to a traditional cable or satellite pay-TV service like a Comcast or Time Warner Cable.1

Because all things OTT “sits at the center of the inevitable and unstoppable merger between the worlds of television and digital video,”1 it’s a hugely attractive proposition.  Earlier this year, CBS said it expects their over-the top business to generate $800 million in revenue by 2020. Half of that revenue would come from CBS All Access and the other half from Showtime’s over-the top product.  By 2020, the company project each should have about 4 million subs.2

The OTT playing field is vast and getting exponentially larger every day – but different business models are confusing some. YouTube, Amazon and Hulu, the big three ad-friendly over-the-top (OTT) producers, have helped legitimize all things OTT by virtue of their quality, original content production.4 put together a list of each group based on their primary business model.

Here are just a few; for a full list head here. 3


SVOD (subscription video on demand)

Top players: Netflix, Amazon, Hulu

Strengths: The most appealing to consumers with an all-you-can-eat video buffet available at very reasonable prices, averaging about $9 per month. More than 41% of U.S. homes now access an SVOD service, a Nielsen report says.

Weaknesses: The massive popularity of SVOD has content owners hiking up the prices to license digital content, eroding profits. And despite signing on tens of millions of subscribers, some analysts worry that Netflix, in particular, may simply run out of subscribers to sign up.


Ad-supported on-demand

Top players: YouTube, AOL On, Yahoo Screen

Strengths: With TV ad dollars increasingly shifting over to digital advertising, ad-supported online video, from OTT juggernaut YouTube to content services like PopcornFlix, has a huge potential opportunity ahead of it. Within a decade–some say within five years–online video advertising revenues may skyrocket to match or surpass TV ad revenues. A year ago, that possibility was almost inconceivable.

Weaknesses: Online video advertising, like online display advertising, is hobbled by fraud issues. Brands don’t have tremendous confidence that their video ads will be shown where and when they want them to be.


User-generated content (including live streaming)

Top players: YouTube, Twitch, Facebook, Vimeo

Strengths: Viva la user revolucion! Since YouTube first launched on April 10, 2005, making it easy and fun for average Internet users to upload their videos to the waiting public, user-generated content has been a dominant and driving force for online video.

Weaknesses: For all its popularity, companies are still trying to figure out how to make money with this thing.

According to James Shears, writing for AdExchanger: “Though traditional measurement, such as gross ratings points, is lagging on OTT, the possibilities for advertisers are still immense. Through logins, IP addresses and device IDs, data can be mapped to effectively target appropriate audiences on smart TVs, gaming consoles and other streaming devices. And perhaps even more important, given the targeting, someone could actually measure if the ad drove a consumer to action or purchase.”4


If you aren’t eyeing OTT, you’re looking in the wrong direction.





How Local News Stations Can Evolve in a TV Everywhere World

TV news is changing – and it’s changing fast. Its audience is splintering as quick as headlines are generated and local TV management is racing to figure out ways to catch up and, in some cases, just to stand still.

In 2012, local affiliates for Fox, ABC, NBC and CBS lost more than 6% of their audience in the important early morning, evening and late night slots. And even with record-high spending on political advertising in 2012, ad revenue for local television stations was well below the levels of the last decade.2

But at the same time, local news is still a very attractive proposition. Tribune is looking to get out of the newspaper business and focus on television, the same step Media General took in 2012 when it sold its newspapers, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, to become an entirely broadcast and digital media company. “Their focus is on the local markets,” Stephen Hayes, general manager of WTVR, said of Tribune. “What you don’t want is a broadcast group that is concerned with things other than Richmond, because that is who we are serving. They have definitely reinforced that.”1

With younger people tuning out local newscasts, there is growing concern that local TV news may be facing some of the financial challenges that have already battered the newspaper industry. And even as local TV newscasts seem to be doubling down on sports, traffic and weather, there are an ever increasing number of digital sources outside of television that provide that kind of information on demand.2

Ah, digital. That old (new) chestnut. So why should you – and more importantly how can you – take your local news and increase viewers by using the web to your advantage?

Today’s viewing habits are centered on convenience. Viewers have more devices to enable watching the content they want, from wherever they are, at any time. Content reaches viewers through a variety of methods. Viewers watch TV channels via direct-to-home services, paid satellite, cable, and IPTV services. In addition to these more traditional delivery means, consumers are also accessing content via online channels that provide content 24/7. These services mimic traditional TV in an online fashion. Users can choose from a variety of channels and watch round-the-clock programming.3 And that’s just what you want for your business, right? So in order to grow, you’ll need to expand digitally.





Why You Need To Live Stream Your News

Times are a-changing. And nothing is changing faster, it seems, than how we consume the news. Thanks to emerging platforms, convenience is now the name of the game and to survive you have to be able to both deliver what people want on their schedules and to their favorite devices – and one of the best ways to do that is live-streaming.

Let’s start by looking at two of the most popular live-streaming apps, Periscope and Meerkat. Live streaming has been embraced by journalists, musicians, and athletes – even business owners looking to provide their audience with behind-the-scenes footage. Periscope, now owned by Twitter, allows you to re-watch videos for 24 hours after the initial broadcast—a feature not offered by Meerkat. Periscope also provides broadcasters with analytics on how the video performed (viewers, average duration, etc.).1

These apps have shown a huge and growing audience what live-streaming is and how attractive it can be. That same audience is looking for local news, sports and weather that can be streamed at a moment’s touch – which is why you might be hurting your brand and business without it.

The recent 2016 Rio Olympics are a perfect example of how important it is. Every four years the Olympic games occur, and every four years NBC tries to find a way to convert sports into a primetime reality show. Sports fans go nuts and curse the network. But now it’s 2016 and so many sports fans have cut the cord, sick and tired of commercial television in the United States, eager to find an alternative. Streaming is now as important as over-the-air or cable broadcasting.3

But it’s not without its issues. “The way we’re watching television has changed,” said Billie Gold, vice president and director of programming research at Amplifi.

NBC has been scoring weak ratings ever since the opening ceremony last Friday. While the network is dominating other broadcasters, nightly viewership is down from London, particularly in the key 18- to 49-year-old demographic. While Olympics live-streaming isn’t impacting the TV ratings in a serious way, overall streaming is – because people can watch clips online. And while the network is setting internal records for its Rio live-streams, the alternative mode of viewing is not cannibalizing traditional TV in a meaningful way.2

Thus far, live-streaming seems to help increase brand awareness and is good for business.  A recent infographic reported some pretty remarkable statistics about video consumption and live streaming including the fact that people spend three times longer watching live video compared to video that’s not live.4

And as recently as July 2016, Fox Broadcasting Co. announced it would begin live-streaming its primetime programming in a bid to target viewers who want to tune into programs on the web instead of traditional TV. Other broadcasters have already begun live-streaming their content, with varying business models and reach into the market. CBS, for example, has its CBS All Access service, which made its debut in 2014.5

If you’ve not thought about it for your news department, you might want to – before your audience deserts you for a news department that is.







Local News Still Worth The Ad Spend

With so many options for our eyeballs, advertisers are scrambling to find the most popular platforms. But just because something glitters doesn’t necessarily mean… well, you know the rest. Some of the best platforms for delivering audiences to advertisers (and vice versa!) are the old ones – especially local TV news.

A 2014 Pew Research Center report states that local TV stations enjoyed “a year of higher revenue and slightly higher viewership in 2014. Viewership increased in two of the three key time slots following gains from the previous year.”1   You might find it surprising in a time where apps, smart phones and the internet are threatening to destroy everything you thought was permanent in terms of “old media” but, well, actually, old media is doing fairly well, thank you very much.  Viewership in 2014 increased slightly in morning and early evening slots with very early morning news doing amazingly well, increasing 6% from the year before.

Another boost to local TV news is political spending; according to Pew, “much of this is due to political advertising spending, which after the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling seems to guarantee windfalls to local TV stations in even-numbered years. In 2014 total on-air ad revenue for local stations reached $20 billion, according to consulting firm BIA/Kelsey, up 7% from the year before and down 3% compared with 2012, the last election year.”1

Possibly the best research data that points to TV as still the most effective advertising medium is the Turner Broadcasting/Horizon Media/MarketShare report which analyzed thousands of marketing optimizations used by the major advertisers from 2009 through 2014.

Amongst the study’s findings:2

  • MarketShare analyzed advertising performance across industry and media outlets like television, online display, paid search, print and radio advertising and found that TV has the highest efficiency at achieving key performance indicators, or KPIs, like sales and new accounts. When comparing performance at similar spending levels, TV averaged four times the sales lift of digital.
  • TV has maintained its effectiveness at driving advertiser KPIs over the last five years. In a study using data from a luxury automaker, TV was the only medium to maintain its effectiveness (a 1.5 percent decrease in five years) while the other advertising media—both online and offline—declined more than 10 percent.
  • TV marketers can optimize their spend by leveraging data sources, including high-frequency consumer interactions like website visits and inbound calls, to improve TV advertising performance.
  • Premium online video from broadcast and cable networks out-performs video content from other publishers.


Local TV Ad Revenue Growth 2014
Local TV Ad Revenue Growth 2014










Chicago alone saw its five biggest TV stations grow their news programming, adding another 14 hours per week altogether in the past year. And lest you think it’s just Chicago, “In an era of increased competition for video viewers, you have to distinguish yourself a little more, and what distinguishes local stations is their news and information,” says Mark Fratrik, chief economist at BIA/Kelsey, a broadcast research and consulting firm in Chantilly, Va. It predicts local TV advertising revenue will rise 10 percent to $22.3 billion this year from $20.2 billion in 2015.3

According to Wingman Advertising, there are five reasons why TV advertising is still a hugely successful platform for reaching consumers: 4


  1. TV drives immediate responses.
  2. Local broadcasts are DVR-proof.
  3. Cable offers targeted advertising.
  4. Good commercials work.
  5. Programmatic TV is a game-changer


Local TV news – for now – isn’t going anywhere. And neither should your ad spend.





News To Go – Roku’s Best News Channels

News To Go – Roku’s Best News Channels

Here’s a headline for you: Roku currently leads the way in the streaming media play market with 30% of the audience.1 Not only that, it is more powerful than its immediate competitors which include Google, Amazon and AppleTV. Roku has already acknowledged the importance of multiple streaming solutions, and added stick options that plug directly into your TV – and it’s tightening the screws on the competition by focusing on producing television software.2

The platform is host to over 2500 channels and streams both movies and TV series.3 But how well does Roku handle its news bundle? Their selection of news channels is huge – you can see them for yourself here – and almost overwhelming in terms of what to subscribe to. We picked a few that stand out as the best and here they are – in no particular order.


Newsy is free and gives you “news with the why” – a series of snackable video news and analysis. Their claim is that they do it all without the bias of your average news channel. Give it a shot and figure out for yourself if Newsy is for you; their claim that they deliver critical context from multiple sources to help you understand a story is a unique one.

Sky News

It’s free. It’s British. It’s live 24/7 and we’re proud to say, a Bitcentral customer. Sky also provides live broadcasts for the UK, the US and Canada. If you’re not watching live when news breaks, Sky offers cached feeds that allow you to catch up when its most convenient for you. And don’t worry about the British localization; they cover pretty both American and International news stories so you’ll get a well-rounded approach to the day’s headlines.

Free Speech TV

This channel is now over 20 years old. It was launched in 1995 and encourages viewers to become more civically engaged. It’s independent, publicly-supported and non-profit.

CBS All Access

This package runs at $6 per month, giving the viewer access to all CBS programming alongside an on-demand library that contains over 2,000 titles. In an interesting move that speaks volumes as to future distribution strategies, in 2017 CBS All Access will be the exclusive home to the new Star Trek series.3

Bloomberg TV+

The big selling point is here is the extensive collection of videos that cover stories in the business world. Bloomberg videos are well organized and include key segments from shows like With All Due Respect and Charlie Rose. Bloomberg TV+ draws upon a huge international news bureau network with 146 bureaus in 72 countries.

Sling TV

Another subscription service, Sling TV charges $20 per month but provides over 20 big broadcast and cable channels including CNN.

Roku has all shapes and sizes when it comes to news channels. They also offer up: Ashanti News Network; AOL On; NowThis News; Red State Talk Radio; The Lip TV; Time; TMZ; MSNBC and even the Onion News Network. Roku also offers a huge variety of local news channels. There are too many to list here but you can look at them:

There are so many news channels to choose from so we suggest you take your time to build your own network from within the Roku platform. It’s entirely possible to get as many views as possible on any given subject with the breadth of choice Roku offers.




Header Image Courtesy and Copyright Roku.

Local TV News Still Matters

Lots of people are cord-cutting these days – but there’s only so much cord to cut. Lots of folks are asking if local news still matters, but there is mounting evidence towards a resounding yes. A free press is the best sign of a thriving democracy and a myriad of bloggers with their own agendas (often paid agendas) will have a hard time connecting to local communities hungry for objective local news. We can’t lose local news and there’s a growing amount of research supporting this view.

A recent survey by Melody Kramer1 on Poynter got to the heart of what local news brings to its community and the answers might surprise you. Said one participant, “national correspondents swoop in and provide two minutes of a story, whereas local reporters can revisit a story multiple times to make sure that we, the listeners, fully understand it and its impact on us, if there is one.”

The growing consensus is that it’s important to have professionals/journalists cover the news as opposed to often-biased bloggers reporting what they think truth is that day.

Another participant responded: “The purpose of the local paper or station is to see, know, care about and understand your community in ways your neighbors don’t and then share what you find. It’s to be perpetual tourist in your town with a side helping of too much empathy.”1

The Local News Research Project investigated how the content, amount and spatial patterns of local news coverage in mainstream and ethnic media portray people and places in the Greater Toronto Area. They report that “local news matters because it helps shape how people see the place where they live, what they think about, and how they interpret events and see other people. It’s also important because it provides people with the information they need to become engaged in their communities and to influence what happens there.”2

Research from Los Angeles shows that the more dense the web of storytelling, the more engaged people become in their communities. “News media does more than just convey fact. It constructs a reality.”2

A Pew Center study of local news in three different U.S. cities determined one clear winner in the competition for top local news provider — TV.  The three cities studied include Denver, Macon, Georgia and Sioux City, Iowa.  What’s particularly notable is that TV is such a dominant source for news in a large market like Denver, which has 143 local news providers, according to Pew.3

According to the study “nearly nine-in-ten residents follow local news closely—and about half do so very closely.” The Pew report also offers interesting details on the topics of news people pay attention to — a fifth or more of people in all three cities studied say they closely track news about weather, crime, schools and education, as well as government and politics. This study serves to highlight that local stations should continue to focus their news coverage to better serve their communities and maintain their audiences.3

Which leads us to another response from Melody Kramer’s survey. “Local newspapers provide folks an accurate, honest and curated introduction to their neighbors and to the issues about which their neighbors are passionate. They frame the conversation in a community. Usually, that’s as simple as shifting the conversation to be centered on others instead of on ourselves. That’s something social media can’t do well.”1

One last reason local news is so important comes from David Pierce at The He says that TV news now has a new role of great importance. “We don’t need to know what’s happening — Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, and our favorite blogs handle that just fine — but we desperately need to know which of the ten thousand stories we hear every day is most important, and why. TV news’s opportunity is to ignore fake stories, the non-stories, and the trivial stories, and tell us what really matters.”4

The headline is that the headlines aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.





The Five Best Local News Apps of 2016

News apps are big news. Smartphones – and some smart apps – have allowed news junkies the never-ending ability to click on the latest headlines. According to StepLeader, a mobile tech company, more than one in four surveyed adult US smartphone users have a local news app installed.1

The TV is still the top destination for getting local news but the local news app is second – beating both the local TV’s website and the local newspaper’s website. According to StepLeader, among people with a local news app, 36% claimed to watch local TV news seven or more times in the week prior to the survey.

The study also reveals that local news app users are both well educated and affluent as well as older; 62% were between the ages of 30 and 60. The three biggest uses of the news app include breaking news (40%), local news (26%) and weather (22%).

Another study is equally as illuminating.  CNN reports on research from Localytics that shows “mobile users spend roughly the same amount of time with news apps as they do with Twitter…about 115 minutes per month.”2 A news app, while expensive to develop, can reap dividends for the news channel paying for it via advertising.

So what are some of the best local news apps? Here are some we recommend (in no particular order):

ABC 7 Los Angeles

Southern Californians can grab their local news as well as national and international at the drop of a button. It’s also part of a suite of apps on offer – and all free. Included in the suite are the aforementioned Los Angeles app – which also works on your Apple Watch, the MegaDoppler Weather app, and the Watch ABC app (which allows you to watch ABC shows).

CBS Local

CBS uses a one-size fits all approach with their app. You can select your city to help personalize the app for local news/weather. They offer personalization in 24 major US locations and you can live-stream audio and watch video broadcasts. Interestingly, the app features Nielsen’s audience measurement software which means you can contribute to their market research.


A broadcaster-operated news service that harnesses content from 118 stations in 90 markets. Users get a free, ad-supported app that provides live and on-demand local newscasts and local news clips.

AP Mobile

The Associated Press have their own award-winning app available for smartphone and tablet. Raved about by the New York Times (“If you like your news comprehensive you’ll want AP Mobile”), it gives you local and national stories as well as local stories from over 1,000 regional news sources.

News6 Orlando

WKMG in Orlando has gotten into the app game in a big way. Their free downloads include an app for news, an app for storm tracking, an app for hurricane tracking, an app for Storm Pins, and an app for local sports.

The following chart shows the additional news apps used by people in the US (in 2013), courtesy of Statista. 3


The Most Used News + Journalism Apps - Bitcentral
The Most Used News + Journalism Apps – 2013,