ABC, Cox, Hearst station groups up the stakes in live local news OTT streaming

Disney-owned ABC is among five major broadcast TV station groups that are joining forces to develop NewsON, a service that will provide live streaming of local newscasts to viewers in 84 viewing markets nationwide.

The service will directly challenge live local streaming efforts by CBS, which is working to bring local newscasts to its CBS All Access service. The venture could also threaten Granite Broadcasting-owned, fledgling manufacturer TabletTV, an over-the-air antenna and streaming device that has been trying to solve the local news conundrum for cord cutters.

Participating organizations include The ABC Owned Television Group, Cox Media Group, Hearst Television, Media General and Raycom Media.

NewsON, slated to launch in fall 2015, will be delivered through apps developed by the participating station groups. The service offers free, ad-supported live content as well as same-day content on demand. Currently, 112 local TV stations are participating in the effort, with more expected to join.

Mobile and digital media veteran Louis Gump has signed on as NewsON's CEO. He previously led development of mobile offerings for CNN and The Weather Channel.

"Americans place a great deal of trust in their local news teams, who are typically the first informers from the local scene of the biggest news developments around the country," Gump said in a press release. "NewsON will bring instant access to live local news to a generation of viewers accustomed to using mobile and connected TV platforms to stay informed."

Local news is one of the last untapped frontiers for online video. While many local stations live-stream their newscasts and have their weather forecasts available on-demand, their content is frequently only available on PC browsers. Some do offer mobile apps or can be found on streaming devices like Roku, but overall this market segment is fragmented, with each station doing its own thing.

"Local media has been great in pockets but not great on a national scale," Gump told FierceOnlineVideo. "One of the most appealing things to me is we can help local media achieve same level of usage and customer satisfaction on a national scale that other individual brands may have been able to do earlier on the curve."

Previous efforts to monetize local news streaming haven't panned out: For example, Capitol Broadcasting-owned News Over Wireless was one of the most visible companies building custom mobile apps for local news stations back in 2012, but has since pivoted to become StepLeader, focusing on mobile analytics.

Response to the NewsON service from local stations has been positive, Gump said, and many see the potential of advertising via the mobile platform. "The founding members really have a shared vision that there is a chance to strengthen the marketplace. I can tell you a number of general managers at (local) stations are enthusiastic about (this)... they can reach consumers directly and this is a nice additional channel for them."

With newer advertising technologies available like programmatic buying and selling, as well as DAI (dynamic ad insertion), initiatives like NewsON may finally be able to bring in significant dollars in addition to attracting multiscreen viewers.

For more:
- see the release

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Updated June 9 with comments from CEO Louis Gump.