Gray Television said it will be removing its local content from Sinclair’s NewsOn, one of a number of platforms streaming local news to out-of-market viewers.
Gray is an investor in VUit, a local news streaming platform launched last year by tech firm Syncbak, and is focusing out-of-market streaming efforts there.
In March, Gray ended its relationship with Haystack News, another streaming news aggregator.
Gray has its own apps that stream its stations in local markets. “We really believe it’s really important for us to be on all screens and all devices,” Gray senior VP of digital media Mike Braun told Broadcasting+Cable.
But having the Gray stations on similar news aggregation apps “could create some viewer confusion,” he said. “I think it helps if the market is not confused about where to find us.”
About 95 of Gray’s 102 stations are on NewsOn, including WVLT-TV in Knoxville, Tennessee; WVUE in New Orleans and WOWT-TV in Omaha, Nebraska. NewsOn's lineup includes nearly 300 stations owned by 16 different groups covering 165 markets.
Braun said Gray’s contract with NewsOn expires at the end of the year and that Gray intended to remove its stations at that time. “If the user base still does want us there, we’ll absolutely be open to a conversation,” he said. ■
A spokesperson for Sinclair said it has not been notified by Gray that Gray stations will be leaving the platform in December.
"While we would be sorry to see the partnership with Gray end, their departure will not materially affect NewsOn’s traffic or bottom line. We expect much of Gray’s local station viewing will be absorbed by competitors, as we have seen before," the spokesperson said. "Unlike some of its competitors, NewsOn is at scale, creating a solution that elevates all local TV news in OTT, and its station partners benefit financially and through a proven increase in viewership.”
Gray is in the process of acquiring Meredith Corp.’s local stations. Many of those stations are currently on NewsOn. Braun couldn’t comment on what would happen to those stations, but noted that they were also already on VUit.
Gray’s stations will remain on the Amazon Fire TV local news app, which Braun described as a different service on a different platform.
VUit recently announced that it added more stations to its platform. Braun said that showed VUit’s vitality.
“We believe it’s just the beginning and it’s going to continue to grow,” he said. “The latest deals that they’ve made to bring on more local broadcasters really encourages us that we picked the correct platform.”
Keeping Gray’s content from competitors would also help VUit. “It’s fair to say that we want to build the audience base on VUit. There’s no secret we have an investment in. Why wouldn’t we believe in the product that we’ve invested in,” Braun said. Being on multiple apps would also dilute Gray’s ability to sell advertising, he said.
Some broadcast execs expect that eventually there will be a shakeout among the news aggregation sites.
“I think consolidation has been seen on all fronts in local broadcasting. So I would not be surprised to see some consolidation take place on the streaming front,” Braun said.
Haystack News said that since Gray left its platform, it has continued to grow, adding dozens of stations owned by Nexstar Media.
“We at Haystack value our past working relationship with Gray Television, and respect the company’s decision to limit consumers’ access to its local news content to its owned platforms. Haystack would welcome back Gray content in the future and we wish the team all the best,” said Daniel Barreto, co-founder and CEO of Haystack TV.
“Haystack News remains committed to easing consumers’ access to the news they care about and helping news channels further monetize content and extend audience reach via our curated and personalized platform,” Barreto said. ”It’s clearly resonating with consumers and publishers alike, as we achieved record revenue for seven months straight.” ■
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