The video-streaming business has been good to WorldNow. The provider of Web-related services to TV stations just signed deals with the ABC station group, Media General, and Gray Broadcasting to add 50 stations to its roster, pushing the number it serves past the 100 mark and easily exceeding goals for 2004.
What's behind the boom?
The opportunity to easily reach viewers in the workplace—and to drive new advertising dollars.
Thanks to broadband penetration in offices, video streaming allows viewers to visit a Web site and tap into newscasts. They can check on breaking news, weather, traffic reports, or even a video summary of top news stories. The goal is to extend the station's brand. For instance, WABC.com can provide a localism that popular national sites, such as CNN.com, do not.
"A TV station right now is like a factory that only has one shift," says WorldNow President and CEO Gary Gannaway. The factory wants to add new shifts; meaning, the station intends to repackage content for Internet delivery.
Unfortunately, most TV stations aren't using their personnel to the station's advantage: Staffers could be creating new stories from news content, utilizing Internet technology, such as Web links and Web cams.
Ron Stitt, ABC station group vice president, Internet Operations, says station Web sites will offer video clips for stories that have already aired on TV.
"There is the ability to take a multimedia approach to content," he says.
Plus, it's good value. "We're very pleased with the quality of the video. It gives us the ability to get into the video advertising business," Stitt says. "We don't know what the potential is, but we'll find out."
WorldNow's streaming video is the cornerstone of the company's local-sales consulting services. During the past three years, the company has helped stations gain an additional $50 million in incremental local revenue, according to Executive Vice President, Ad Sales, Mark Zagorski.
Video services go beyond the 30-second spot, offering streaming of medical procedures, infomercials, and marketing pieces. "It's a new way for local advertisers to deliver their message," Gannaway says, "and gives local broadcasters a new way to create inventory."
ABC has the system running at two stations: WABC New York and KTRK Houston. Both are making a conservative start, posting only stories that appear on their newscasts. But the system has far more potential, creating compelling and new forms of advertising environments. For instance, visitors can view a medical procedure, such as Lasik treatment, to draw additional hits and revenue.
Zagorski likens the current status to the human brain: For most people, only 3% of brain capacity is being utilized.
For now, once a station has signed on with WorldNow, it's easy to enter cyberspace.
A server is installed at each station to pull in content from a videotape machine or even the broadcast master-control console itself. The server encodes the incoming video, making it ready for distribution over the Internet.
At the same time, an index with descriptors and pointers is sent to WorldNow's database. The pointers are used by the company's Broadband Delivery Network partners, such as Akamai and Speedera, whose content delivery networks (CDN) enable quick access to the content. The partners have Internet servers worldwide and utilize their private networks to find the most efficient delivery system.
"Once it's sent to our Broadband Delivery Network, the delivery is load-balanced across the CDN's entire network," says Zagorski. "That gives the best performance because the video sits on a private backbone rather than being sent out over the open Internet."
Gannaway and Zagorski agree that, while streaming performance is important, the station's approach to it is critical. With station personnel in place, creating a compelling online experience doesn't require additional staffers; it only adds to existing personnel's duties.
"They're already creating a 90-second segment from possibly hours of video," Zagorski explains.
Zagorski says that the amount of business WorldNow does with the CDNs gives it pricing power. Costs are lower for the groups, and the streaming experience is improved. It's one reason the stations utilize WorldNow: They can't get a better rate on their own.
"From an operational perspective, it's realistic to have the staff cut a three-minute video for streaming right after the morning and noon newscasts," Gannaway says. Both can be delivered to viewers at work, helping create brand continuity for the station on-air and online.