Local broadcasters are fighting back against the streaming trend that has hurt their business. Lillian Rizzo reports in The Wall Street Journal:
A new streaming service featuring more than 200 TV stations launched Tuesday, part of an effort by local-TV groups to make their content more broadly available and generate additional advertising revenue.
VUit, pronounced “View It,” lets people stream all of Gray Television Inc.’s GTN -1.35% TV stations in 93 markets and some of Meredith Corp. MDP -1.86% ’s 17 stations, as well as dozens of closely held stations. The service, which was created by streaming-technology company Syncbak Inc., will be ad-supported and free of charge to viewers.
Local TV stations have seen their viewership rise during the pandemic, but the surge was accompanied by a cutback in advertising spending. Political advertising is expected to make up for some of those losses this year.
Local broadcasters have also suffered from the continuing shift from traditional pay-TV services to streaming platforms—a phenomenon known as cord-cutting—and have been slow to find their footing in the streaming world, industry analysts have said.
Syncbak has been testing the service for months, Chief Executive Jack Perry said. One of the earliest tests happened in February, when Syncbak helped Heritage Broadcasting, a small Michigan-based broadcast station owner, live-stream more than 10 hours of a snowmobile race—which drew viewers from 107 markets across the U.S. and globally.
People who came across the service during the testing came back to it 17 times a month on average, Mr. Perry said.
“We’re aiming to be the Netflix of live, local and free,” he said.
Syncbak, which is partly backed by Gray, won’t pay local TV stations for their content, but the stations will receive most of the advertising revenue generated by the service, the company said.
Beyond Gray and Meredith, VUit’s launch partners include Morgan Murphy Media and Northwest Broadcasting, which was recently acquired by Apollo Global Management Inc.
Kevin Latek, an executive vice president at Gray, described VUit as “a way to increase our audience and revenue. It seems like a win-win.”
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