As the KCRA Sacramento alarm clock app approaches its first anniversary, the numbers are impressive to Elliot Troshinsky, the station’s president and general manager. Nearly 20,000 users in DMA No. 20 have downloaded the free mobile app, which offers a live stream of KCRA’s news, the forecast and talent from the Hearst TV station updating the user on what happened while they slept.
There’s been a lot of “positive reaction,” says Troshinsky. “It’s an opportunity to expand on another platform and create additional revenue.”
In the two years since the ABC Owned Stations launched their alarm clock app for the iPhone and iPod touch, leading stations have introduced their own mobile wake-up product. With morning news representing the main growth opportunity in local TV and people increasingly turning on their smartphones moments after waking, stations believe it makes a whole lot of sense to be the first thing users focus on after arising.
“We were seeing people wake up to the small screen,” says Carla Carpenter, senior VP of digital media at ABC Owned Television Stations. “We knew we needed to be there.”
ABC, which would not share the number of downloads, will add new elements to the alarm clock app in 2015. The apps currently include voice tracks from local talent and a feature that allows the user to import music from their iTunes library. Like those old spots for orange juice, they’re not just for breakfast anymore, with people typically using ABC’s alarm clock function three times a day to stay up to date on news, weather and traffic.
“It’s gotten to the point where viewers know they can count on you wherever they are,” says Carpenter.
The stations featuring wake-up apps are largely market leaders, or darn close. They include Graham Holdings’ WJXT Jacksonville, Stephen Mumblow’s WHAM Rochester and Hearst TV’s WCVB Boston. Hearst made the app available to stations, and several, including WBAL Baltimore and WXII High Point- Greensboro, grabbed the template.
Hank Price, WXII president/general manager, refers to its alarm clock app as a “boutique offering” that makes a bit of money and gets the WXII 12 News name onto newer platforms. “Everything we do is designed to extend the brand in viewers’ minds,” he says.
Stations are using the wake-up apps to steer viewers to the increasingly competitive a.m. news. In a 2013 survey by RTDNA/Hofstra, weekend morning was the largest area of news expansion, followed by weekday morning. In 2014’s recently released survey, weekend morning was “right behind” late news in terms of where stations are adding news, with weekday morning a hair behind.
It is difficult to draw a line between alarm clock app downloads and morning news ratings, but Carpenter believes there is a connection. “Our research tells us the two go hand in hand,” she says. “They remind you of our brand, and it’s our hope and belief that they give you another reason, when you turn on the television, to turn on our brand.”
MEREDITH BULLISH ON ALLRECIPES TV SHOW
Meredith’s $175 million Allrecipes.com acquisition has thrived as a new print magazine, and company brass is confident it will similarly fly as a TV show. Meredith Video Studios is shopping three Allrecipes concepts—a cook-off competition, a traditional game show and a daytime strip—to both cable networks and stations.
Kieran Clarke, executive VP and president of Meredith Video Studios, is sharing treatments and sizzle reels with potential partners, and asking for their input in shaping the concepts. He’s hopeful an Allrecipes program will debut in the fall of 2016. “That’s the goal,” he says.
Meredith acquired Allrecipes. com in 2012. “We know we’ve got a highly regarded brand that people identify with,” says Paul Karpowicz, president of Meredith Local Media.
The reception from cable networks has thus far been encouraging, he says. “It’s in the very early stages,” Karpowicz notes, “but the enthusiasm we’re hearing makes us feel pretty good about the idea.”