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NAB 2016: Calkins Media Wins With OTT
At an NAB session Sunday, Calkins Media shared how it has monetized live linear OTT with relatively small viewer numbers
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"The audience shift online has been a scary thing for people who own local TV stations and newspapers," said Guy Tasaka, chief digital officer of Calkins Digital at a presentation on Sunday at NAB called "Local Media Association—Case Studies in Monetizing Digital." Calkins Media is a family-owned media company with TV stations and newspapers in the eastern U.S., and Calkins Digital develops strategies and products for its parent company.

Calkins began experimenting in 2013 with OTT, and so far the effort has paid off. Calkins' OTT channel grew to become the company's third-largest media property within 6 months, seeing 130,000 digital downloads and about 30,000 active users per month in its largest market.

"We wanted to maintain our position as the primary news and information provider in the market. We didn't want three guys in a garage to create the Huntsville News Channel," said Tasaka."We wanted to win the next platform and be the TV aggregator of local content in our market."

Calkins decided that the business model that was going to sustain their was live linear streaming. "What we wanted to do was preserve legacy pricing, and the legacy pricing paradigm in spot TV," said Tasaka"We also did financial models which showed us we really didn't need big audiences. We could have audiences of thousands and make millions, as opposed to mobile where you can have audiences of millions and make thousands."

69% of Calkins' views come from OTT, and the remaining other small percent comes from desktop and mobile. Calkins' OTT and mobile platform also allowed it to reach out to national advertisers who were not advertising with Calkins properties. Calkins also made an interesting and profitable discovery. "Our total viewing time is 93% is spent watching our linear channel vs 7% watching VOD," said Tasaka. "We have been able to monetize our OTT channel and really create a second stream that we own OTT ad inventory on."

"One of the things we did earlier on is speak to the gurus in digital video and said, 'Who's making money?'," said Tasaka. "They kept coming back with Buzzfeed, Vice, and these big YouTube brands. We looked at ourselves and said there's no way in smaller markets we can actually make any money with VOD, so we did not even chase VOD,“ said Tasaka.

"Through all the work that we did through user testing, watching data, how we designed apps, etc.. we realized that all people really wanted to do was watch TV on their over-the-top device," said Tasaka."They were too lazy to go find a remote control and switch sources. When our news came on they just pop over to the news and watched it and it stayed on through early evening."

Calkins also rebroadcasts the news so if a viewer misses it at six they can go watch at 7."We have an incremental audience and an incremental ad inventory," Tasaka said. "When we start looping the news we are charging new advertisers spot rate. We have legacy pricing models where we are getting anywhere from $3 - $25 in the incremental stream."  

Calkins also announced partnerships with Raleigh TV station WRAL and Schurz Communications to develop and introduce new branded news and information apps on Roku, Amazon Fire TV, and Apple TV, with the goal of monetizing the licensing of its tech and strategy services.