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ABC’s Localish Goes Nationalish

On Monday, Feb. 17, ABC relaunched its multicast network formerly known as Live Well as Localish, taking advantage of reams of digital-first content that its owned stations have been producing at the local level for some 18 months.

“In terms of the inspiration for Localish, we originally created it for a number of very simple reasons: we wanted to reflect and serve the communities we call home,” Wendy McMahon, president, ABC Owned Television Stations, said. “While the ABC Television Stations are best in class in terms of breaking news and covering big stories, we thought we weren’t capturing as many of the positive stories in our our communities, so we thought about how we could intentionally bring good stories about people, places and things into our brand offerings.” That results in stories told from the perspective of locals. For example, a recent story showcased a Los Angeles bar that created custom cockt

ils to reflect some of this year’s Oscar-nominated movies, and another revealed how a Port Washington, New York-based cheesemonger teaches people to make cheese. In both stories, the subject narrates the action, whether it’s shaking a cocktail or pulling fresh mozzarella.

“One of the things we wanted to do with Localish is create a space where we could experiment with next-generation storytelling,” McMahon said. “It feels different than our traditionally produced content. This new way of producing places subjects at the forefront of stories. It feels different than the traditional anchor voiceover.”

Enhancing Local Newscasts

That change in producing style also has trickled up to the stations themselves, allowing them to start injecting digital-first storytelling into local newscasts.

Up to this point, Localish content lived in several places: online at the ABC Television Stations’ websites, in the owned stations’ apps, and sometimes in the stations’ daily newscasts. This new effort takes those stories and repackages them into half-hour programs for the new Localish network.

“We have created more than 1,000 short-form videos and those allow us to create strong half-hour shows where we can stack content based on the most viral and engaging pieces,” said Localish executive producer Michael Koenigs, who also hosts two shows on the new network. Some of these pieces have been seen more than 20 million times across social media, he said.

The network is debuting with 10 original programs, with titles such as More In Common, featuring inspiring stories of Americans coming together despite their differences; Out of Office, revealing locals’ favorite vacation spots; Glam Lab, discovering the latest trends in beauty and self-care; and Secretly Awesome, which doubles as a branded-content play sponsored by Hiscox Insurance.

Many of the ABC-owned TV stations also produce their own local shows, which are branded as Localish LA or Localish Bay Area, for example, said Jennifer Mitchell, senior vice president, content development, ABC Owned Television Stations: “We are looking to do that in all eight of our markets.”

In general, the network plans to add more shows as it progresses. “We’ll expand to more as we go forward without a doubt,” Koenigs said. “The hits will expand and we’ll seed new formats each season.”

“We try to find the universal in the local,” Koenigs said. “We’re about finding the light at the end of the tunnel; we’re less about dwelling in the problem. That’s one of the reasons this content resonates — it’s a divisive time and people are eager for that story that gives them a little confidence in their fellow man and their world. People generally feel more positively about their local communities than they do about the world at large.”

Friendly to Ad Formats

Due to that positive perspective, Localish appeals to both ABC’s local and national advertisers. It also will carry direct-response advertising (ads that include a 1-800 number to call for more information or to place an order), which is a standard type of advertising offered by multicast networks.

As intended, Localish’s short-form content does very well across social media, with people grabbing videos and sharing them across platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Localish as an initiative has helped drive ABC Television Stations’ social traffic. As a result, the owned TV stations had as many social engagements from October 2019 through January 2020 — 71 million — as The New York Times and The Washington Post combined, with 44 million and 27 million, respectively, according to Shareablee.

While some content is being packaged into shows for the new network, Localish also will continue to exist as it does now, with local content produced for station websites, apps and newscasts.

“We are multiplatform brands,” McMahon said. “It is always through that lens that we consider how we can bring this content to life and use it to connect with audiences and advertisers.”