In an era when broadcast stations are seeking more opportunities to expand their viewership, the powerhouse option enabled by SBTV since last May has soared in popularity. The Syncbak-owned division has been converting individual stations, network-affiliated and independent alike, to content carriers that reach audiences anywhere at any time, allowing broadcasters to build OTT audiences in their local communities. It also creates an opportunity for stations to reach out-of-market audiences.
The advertiser-supported content delivery platform, free to smart TV and connected and mobile device viewers, gives stations “a much-needed ability to stay connected with viewers anywhere, everywhere on any device,” says Ron Stitt (below right), newly named Head of Product at SBTV. The now almost 100 broadcast stations who are attracting viewers inside and outside of their local area are a testament to the SBTV value proposition.
Two early adopters of this national outreach — KTSF, the San Francisco-based station presenting content in various Asian languages, including Chinese and Vietnamese, and WFMZ, located in southeast Pennsylvania – are sample success stories for SBTV.
KTSF (photo at bottom) produces a lineup of Asian-language newscasts and public affairs programming, while WFMZ offers 90-minute late afternoon and late evening news dayparts (including half-hour coverage of Berks County news in both dayparts). Both stations launched on SBTV eight months ago, and so far, both stations are picking up a sizeable new community of viewers. KTSF’s total viewership last month was more than eight times that of October, with major ground taken among the Asian-American community in Sacramento, California. For WFMZ, minutes viewed this November were up 300 percent, four times viewership the previous month.
Using SBTV for national distribution is free and simple to set up. Once a station agrees to be distributed nationally and decides to be carried on SBTV, their over-the-air signal is transmitted directly to a cloud utilizing Syncbak’s backbone technology, known as SimpleSync. From there, SimpleSync forwards that transmission to SBTV, where it exists as a stream for viewers to see at anytime, anywhere.
“We serve as an umbrella, if you will, where the station can create its own channel identity, manage their stream and the programming on their stream,” adds Stitt.
Under SBTV’s operation, participating stations have the ability to determine what viewers can see at any time. That includes situations where because of contractual obligations, a program on the station’s lineup must be substituted, replaced by another cleared for national transmission. In those instances, the station can present something created in-house, or use a content “marketplace” of first-run and acquired programs set up by SBTV. This is quickly making SBTV the go-to place where niche sports like “Hard Knocks Fighting” can build a live- and on-demand audience supported by local ad dollars.
“We’re building something where content owners can make content available for that purpose,” explains Stitt. “We’re also looking to our local station partners to get into the business of producing live local events which can also become assets as well. The idea is to make a live local event profitable very quickly without a huge audience.”
For SBTV, live and local event presentations can run the gamut from breaking news coverage and parades to concerts and community outreach featuring nationally-known celebrities. Over this past Thanksgiving Day, WFMZ offered a live high school football game via the platform. The game became the most viewed single event on SBTV so far, generating 20 percent of WFMZ’s total minutes viewed nationally for all of November.
“Even though this was a high school situation, the teams were (well-known enough) to attract an out-of-market audience of high-school football fans,” adds Stitt. “The spike in traffic was significant. There’s a lot of opportunities you can create along these lines.”
KTSF, WFMZ and other SBTV affiliated stations promote their national outreach in a number of ways, including on-air, online sites and social media. That awareness helps recapture the viewer emerging from the increasingly popular “binge-mode” times when they are off the grid for local stations (and local advertisers). In that way SBTV helps stations catch and keep eyeballs. The other long-term benefit is thriving in a universe of expanded content options for viewers. “As a broadcaster, you want to avail yourself of every opportunity to connect with them,” Stitt says. “We’re operating a platform with one purpose: serve local broadcasters and maximize all the opportunities out there for them (monetizing content with help from big data research, video-on-demand revenues, to name two). As we start to scale this, and more and more stations come on board, we’ll create a rising tide that lifts all boats.”
“Local broadcasters have what it takes, in aggregate, to matter in a FAANG-dominated universe,” he adds in reference to Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google (the acronym made popular by CNBC commentator Jim Cramer). “But they are too small individually. When we figure out how to work together on content, promotion, and monetization, we will have created something big. We can make local media a presence in this OTT – world, rather than an afterthought.”
Syncbak has conversations in play with a number of broadcast stations and station groups about SBTV participation. The platform and its growing content catalog will get its next major public showcase at NATPE in Miami Beach next month.