As part of an aggressive effort by some major station groups to ramp up their digital reach, the NewsON app aggregating content from local stations in 90 TV markets, including all of the 10 largest markets, has officially launched.
The effort is arguably the largest effort in recent years by station groups to expand the visibility of their digital news offerings.
Over time, the backers hope that it will create a significant new revenue source and overcome the fragmentation of the app market, which makes it harder for individual station apps to attract consumer interest, and expand the digital presence of local TV news by aggregating a large number of stations into a single app.
Since the effort was first announced in June, the NewsON venture has expanded the number of investors and stations participating.
Those stations now include those owned by the founding investors in NewsON venture, which are the ABC Owned Television Station Group, Cox Media Group, Hearst Television, Media General and Raycom Media. More recently, Hubbard Broadcasting has joined the NewsON as an investor and will be supplying content from its stations.
In addition, the app will also include news from all the stations owned by Graham Media Group and some by Tegna. “Tegna will be supplying a couple of stations in Dallas and Washington D.C. so that we are in all of the top 10 markets,” explained Louis Gump, CEO of NewsON in an interview with B&C.
NewsON app became available on Nov. 3, 2015 for Apple iPhone and iPad, Android phone and tablet. By 11 a.m. ET Nov. 3, it will also be available on the Roku platform for Roku players and Roku TVs.
Users will be able to watch content from any of the stations and to set a favorite station that will initially appear when they open the app.
Social media features will also allow viewers to get the station’s Twitter feed as they watch video.
But other than the optional social media feeds, the focus will be exclusively on video from local TV stations, with live feeds, on demand newscasts when a live feed isn’t airing, clips and other content.
“We’ve had inquiries from national news outlets and other content providers but we want to be a shining star for doing this well and will be focusing on local TV news,” he said.
There will also be subject tabs for issues like politics, which will allow users to access election coverage from around the country if they choose and easily discover stories of national interest.
While mobile was an obvious outlet for the app, given the rapid growth in news consumption on smartphones, Gump stressed that they also wanted to be on connected TVs. For a limited time they will be exclusive on the Roku platform.
“We are working really hard to create a new and significant revenue stream for the stations,” said Gump, who added that local stations will sell their own ads for streams and on demand content but NewsON will also have some inventory.
“Early on it will be modest revue but we intend to grow that nicely overtime,” he explained. “This is intended to be something that GMs and GSMs [general sales managers] can use to strengthen their viewership and monetization efforts.”
He also stressed that the app is designed to be complementary to existing digital properties and alternative business models, such as the TV everywhere authenticated services that ABC and some groups have launched.
Gump noted that they were a free ad supported service providing news content while the TV everywhere offerings included the full, or most of, the station’s feed.
“NewsON will also provide them with a way to promote their own apps,” he said.