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Bay Area Broadcasters Tune Into OTT

Though ATSC 3.0 standards will eventually bring over-the-top-like capabilities to broadcast TV stations, OTT and apps specialist Didja is already helping dozens of stations in select parts of the country bridge that gap to reach viewers on mobile devices and PC screens.

Following an earlier trial in Phoenix, Didja has teamed with a group of broadcast TV stations in the San Francisco Bay Area to deliver live, local signals over the top to web browsers and mobile devices alongside an optional DVR service.

Didja’s LocalBTV offering, branded as BayAreaBTV in the Bay Area, is a free app that also includes an optional cloud DVR service that sells for $4.95 per month and comes with 1 terabyte of storage. (Under the default setting, recordings will auto-expire after 28 days, but users have the option to keep individual recordings longer.)

The service is initially supported on web browsers and apps for iOS and Android smartphones and tablets. It also supports Chromecast and Apple TV (using AirPlay), with plans underway to extend support to other TV-connected platforms.

Didja believes the offering will be particularly appealing to millennials and other younger audiences that like to watch TV on mobile screens, as well as bilingual households in the area.

More generally, Didja is trying to capture cord-cutters who have fallen out of the pay TV ecosystem, as well as consumers who have never taken a traditional pay TV service. It also views itself as a service that could complement a growing crop of virtual multichannel video programming distributors such as YouTube TV, while also giving local broadcasters another, easily accessible distribution outlet in their markets.

Bay Area’s Multilingual Launch

BayAreaBTV is launching with a lineup of more than 35 channels that includes a mix of non-English-speaking channels offered in the area, some local English-language stations and a batch of national diginets.

A representative list of channels available via the service includes TV Azteca (Spanish), Skylink and U Channel (Chinese), DiyaTV (South Asian), Viet Bay and Net V (Vietnamese), KPOP (South Korean, or K-pop, music videos), Blues Television Network, Bounce, GetTV and Escape.

BayAreaBTV as well as the Phoenix-area version — a service called PhoenixBTV, with a lineup of about 25 channels — currently do not deliver live local feeds from major broadcasters such as ABC, NBC, Fox and CBS, although Didja’s intention is to add them to its local OTT lineups eventually, CEO Jim Long, said.

Long said the aim is to offer a lineup of 60 to 70 channels at some point.

Didja likewise plans to expand coverage to 40 metro areas in the U.S., with Los Angeles being its next target market.

Unlike the model that the now-defunct Aereo used for a short-lived OTT TV service that delivered local broadcast TV feeds without carriage agreements, Didja’s service carries only the broadcast networks via its OTT service that have offered consent, and access to those lineups is limited to the consumers if they are currently in the local area.

For example, Didja estimated that BayAreaBTV is available to about 2.6 million households in an eleven-county area that covers Santa Clara County to the south, Mendocino County to the north, Contra Costa County to the east, and every geographic area in between.

Didja’s platform, currently limited to its first two markets, captures over-the-air TV feeds from partner programmers at a local data center, where that feed is then prepared for streaming to supported devices.

KPOP On Board With OTT

BayAreaBTV and its OTT distribution model are appealing to KPOP in part because a portion of its audience doesn’t have a TV or an antenna to receive the signal.

“But they always have their phone, and they are always on their phone,” Kelly Quan, KPOP’s CEO, said, estimating that about 70% of KPOP’s audience consists of English-only speakers.

KPOP’s audience tends to skew young, as it also relies on interns as on-air talent that helps viewers understand the story lines being told in the music videos and offering a deeper look into the culture they represent. “They are the millennials and they are the ones who have the buying power,” Quan said.

Quan believes the service will also deliver new audiences to KPOP and reach consumers who don’t have a TV. “I see this as a perfect time for this kind of app,” he said.