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What Sinclair’s Live TV Streaming Service Means for the Industry

September 20th, 2018   ||    by Melanie Brown

The definition of television has changed rapidly over the past few years. The concept of “TV Everywhere” brought on-demand programming to our laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Subsequently, streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu took programming out of the hands of TV providers, and into the consumer’s control.

Most recently, following in the footsteps of a massively successful launch of HBO GO, networks began launching their own streaming services, including live TV streaming, available for download in app format on connected TVs and mobile devices.

Live TV as “the Last Frontier”

Live TV has been akin to “the last frontier” for TV networks. Much of what garners the highest Nielsen ratings for a live airing is in the realm of sports, big events, and news. Since on-demand services and apps often delay their release of programming until after the first run of the show, the value in live TV has become aligned with the value of the unpredictable.

Live events like the Olympics, the Super Bowl, and the Academy Awards often reach high ratings because viewers know that if they miss something live, not only will they be left out of any water cooler conversation the next day, but the effect won’t be the same when they see the highlight out of context. That revelatory moment is something that cannot be recreated outside of the live airing. That being said, ratings for these live events have been steadily decreasing over the past few years, as cord-cutters, -shavers, and -nevers weigh the pros and cons of sitting down to watch appointment TV.

Those viewers who place a high value on continued live viewing (of sports or the news) are the remaining linear TV loyalists. And many of those who continue to watch live sports or the evening news acknowledge that they don’t get much else out of traditional linear television.

Live TV Streaming

Logically, the next evolution of television is a live TV streaming service. Some cable networks have already begun to stream live news and sports to subscribers via their own apps. ESPN airs live games on its app, and CNN offers a live stream of the network on its app. But what’s been missing from the landscape is a standalone service, independent of a cable subscription, for live broadcasts.

According to BuzzFeed News, local media giant Sinclair Broadcast Group has been developing its own live TV streaming service, called STIRR, that would be home to local news, national programming, and a 24/7 schedule of movies, sports, and TV shows. While standalone subscriptions have been making their way into the cable network space, this is a first for a broadcaster, and could change the game for other local broadcast networks who have traditionally relied on live viewers and advertising dollars for their revenue.

By breaking into the unbundled live streaming space, Sinclair could diversify their offerings as well as their revenue streams. Other broadcasters and networks still relying on live airings should sit up and take notice.

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