Get Used to Thinking Bigger

By John Altenbern, President

ScreenHunter_415 Jul. 24, 2014 01.33I don’t know about your summer, but mine includes watching shows on DVR and, on weekends, the occasional “binge-viewing” of a cable series or Netflix show.  I’m not alone. This week several network research gurus pooled their knowledge about how viewers are watching television this year.  It’s an eye-opener if you haven’t seen the data.  http://qz.com/237600/charts-how-we-watch-tv-now/

For those of us in the game of getting audiences to watch live local newscasts, what does it mean?  For starters we better get used to some bigger thinking.  The competition isn’t simply the programming airing live in the same time slot.  And it’s certainly not just about the competing newscasts across town and who shot the extra voiceover today. It is for viewers’ limited time and attention.  Many of those viewers have a DVR full of programming they’d like to see.  Audiences have choice and control like never before.

Almost always, the single best source of audience for a newscast comes from the lead-in program.  When viewers are on our air prior to a live newscast we better be talking to them about something that matters.  Are we giving them compelling reasons to watch the next newscast, or is it only a promise of a fire or robbery and tomorrow morning’s forecast (which I just saw on my phone, thank you).   Is content tailored for those demographics and is it promoted to them?   Are we trying to spread our messages beyond our own air?  Are we engaging online and on social, or buying outside media?   Or are we just casting out the usual generic news and hoping the audience sticks around out of some sense of duty or fading habit?

We must focus on content that is so interesting, and promoted so well, that viewers will put off watching Hulu or Netflix and choose to watch a live newscast.  We’re not just battling for brand loyalty anymore – we have to create a viewing experience that competes with the best on TV.  As you watch your newscast tonight, ask yourself how it stacks up with the latest episode of 24 or House of Cards.  That’s the competition. 

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