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The Local TV Station-Viewer Relationship: 5 Ways Technology Will Sustain and Grow an Already Strong Connection

January 30th, 2019   ||    by John R. Osborn

Historically the local TV station-viewer relationship, based on a concept of hometown television, has been remarkably close and trusting. Viewers rely on their stations for daily news, in-depth sports coverage, weather predictions, and emergency reporting, along with deeper dives into local culture, history, and community issues. The personalities who speak to us through local TV really do feel like extended family members.

This trust connection has been confirmed in Gallup surveys, in demand for local TV as part of over-the-top (OTT) skinny bundles, in community event and charity participation, and through “first-informer” or even “first-responder” status during storms and other emergencies. Even Twitter uses local TV news feeds around school shootings to counter false information.

Here are five ways technology-driven change can sustain and grow the strong local TV station-viewer relationship:

  1. Checks and Balances to Social Media Overload

Social media excels at connecting friends and family around common interests and life events. What TV brings is fact-checked professional reporting. Without local TV and newspaper journalism, facts can become speculation, information can become opinions, and advice from local leaders can be twisted into dangerous rumors.

  1. Interactivity

Thanks to emerging technologies—including smart TVs, ACR, and ATSC 3.0local broadcasters and their advertisers will have two-way internet connectivity for the first time. By 2020, it’s estimated that about 75 percent of all U.S. TVs will be smart TVs. This presents an opportunity for back-and-forth, real-time relationship growth. Imagine local-station viewers using audio-controlled remotes to get involved in unprecedented ways—having a literal voice to share opinions, preferences, concerns, and choices.

  1. The Public Service Mandate

Every local TV station must meet a public service standard in exchange for their broadcast spectrum channel access, according to Brookings. This regulation may seem burdensome, but it’s actually a blessing in disguise, since it helps maintain the crucial viewer-station relationship. Facebook and Google have become the 800 lb. gorillas of the advertising marketplace via user data targeting, but they have no such credential. Instead, they have had to appear before Congress, apologize, and scramble to address the growing doubts of end-users and advertisers raised by bad actors who exploit their distribution platforms. Local TV has both its own distribution channel (broadcast) and content control, and a long-standing requirement with FCC oversight to act in the “public interest, convenience, and necessity.”

  1. Multi-Platform Access

T/V (Television/Video) viewers, particularly younger ones, are turning from MVPDs to OTT content via their mobile devices, smart TVs, and computer screens. In the future, local TV station programming will be even more accessible through emerging technologies; people will be able to access direct broadcast signals on connected mobile devices.

  1. Trust and Relevance

The most important element in any relationship is trust. The key difference between local TV and the many other content providers out there is trust and relevancy. As new technologies pave the way for greater viewer access and advertiser demand, the local TV station-viewer asset of trust will win the day. Timely, objective content—transparently separated from the advertising, political, and editorial interests—is key.

How local stations employ addressable targeting and ad personalization using viewer data will determine future trust levels. They should avoid the temptation to grab short-term profits and risk becoming another “creepy content provider” that stalks viewers on all devices. In the end, viewers must clearly understand and agree to data usage and know how it affects their privacy.

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