After years of being left out of the conversation, local broadcasters are suddenly at the center of the digital universe.
We read this week that Apple wants local programming for Apple TV. NewsOn wants it too, so they can build a national news app. Networks want it so they can offer over-the-top apps to viewers combining national and local programs.
And everyone wants the stations to promote and market their new app.
All this attention must be flattering, particularly when over the past few years stations have watched their networks go directly to consumers, like CBS All Access, or cut deals with Hulu and Amazon that wipe out stations' exclusivity to network shows, all while being asked to pay increasing affiliate fees.
How is a station expected to handle all this new attention? And more importantly, how should they approach all these opportunities to get their programming into the over-the-top world? How does all this fit into a station OTT strategy? Or does all this suffice as a station OTT strategy?
The answer is simple: none of these options is a station over-the-top strategy. There may be something good about each of these opportunities, but not a single one nor a combination of them make up a station OTT strategy. It may be a good idea to do some or all of these things - the aggregators, the tech companies, the network apps - but they must all take a back seat to an OTT strategy that keeps stations in charge.
Apps are the new transmitters, the new cable channels. Local broadcasters must control the way their apps look, they way they incorporate advertisers and the content they contain. None of that is possible unless stations own their apps.
Imagine your team wins the Super Bowl. Will CBS All Access let you turn their app the team colors? Will they let you feature your local parade coverage presented by the Chevy dealer group? Can you publish your clients' sponsored content?
Stations have a lot of opportunities to lend their programming to over-the-top services, but the most important OTT service is the one they create, promote and control themselves.
Networks will always act in their own best interest. Aggregators will come and go. But digital television is already becoming a huge business. In fact it's going to be the primary business, so stations must focus on building that business in a way they can control well into the future.