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Sinclair's new streaming service leveraging 'strength in local TV markets'


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Sinclair's new streaming service leveraging 'strength in local TV markets'

➤ Audience will extend beyond cord-cutters.

➤ Connected TVs will play key role for the service.

➤ National content providers will share in advertising revenue.

Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. stepped into the streaming arena with the Jan. 16 launch of STIRR. The ad-supported content bundle combines national news, sports and entertainment, as well as digital-first entries and video-on-demand fare. Unlike most streaming services, STIRR is emphasizing local content, offering digital versions of its stations, plus additional local news and lifestyle programming. Consumers can access STIRR via iOS and Android devices, Inc.'s FireTV, Apple Inc.'s Apple TV and Roku Inc. and through the service’s dedicated website.

In a recent interview with S&P Global Market Intelligence, STIRR General Manager Adam Ware discussed the target audience for the platform, its emphasis on local content and the advertising game plan it will deploy as it looks to carve out a winning position in the crowded streaming market. An edited version of that conversation follows.

SNL ImageSTIRR General Manager Adam Ware
Source: Sinclair Broadcast Group

S&P Global Market Intelligence: Who is STIRR's target audience?

Adam Ware: The video market is evolving. It's not aimed at cord-cutters but anyone who streams video. STIRR is a free, ad-supported service that offers a lean-back component; the experience people enjoy through linear channels; some of things one would expect to see from digital video. There are video-on-demand elements, as well.

Where does STIRR fit in relative to other streaming services?

STIRR is leveraging Sinclair's strength in local TV markets, offering viewers more on their teams; the issues that concern them; their forecasts; food and music in their area. Everybody is doing different things, but not much in the way of local. Services talk about content recommendation and personalization, but that’s not local. They are either minimizing local, or they can’t do it.

Think of the features you see on local news. There are stories about local heroes and investigative reports. Sometimes only 20 seconds of that footage makes it on air during a newscast. STIRR offers opportunities for more in-depth reporting. There will be additional coverage of live events, like car chases or press conferences.

And the newscasts will serve as promotional forums for the service?

There will be promos all day. The on-air talent will point viewers to the platform: "For more on this story visit [the station call letters] on STIRR."

How important are connected TVs to STIRR?

Connected TV usage is growing significantly. With Roku and Apple TV, people have their Netflix Inc., Hulu LLC and Prime Video accounts. It’s where they store their TV Everywhere apps. It’s how things are organized and how more people are watching.

Some of the markets we serve over-index in terms of [over-the-top video]. According to Nielsen Holdings PLC, Washington, D.C., is the sixth-largest [designated market area] overall, but No. 2 in OTT. Baltimore goes up when it comes to OTT. We're fortunate to have stations in the top 10 OTT DMAs.

What is the advertising game plan? The stations and properties like Charge!, Stadium and TBD that Sinclair owns or has stakes in aside, how much inventory does STIRR control within the national networks?

We sell all the inventory on the various channels; it’s a revenue-sharing relationship.

Any charter advertisers for the service at launch?

Charter advertising implies big, broad packages. It's too early for that. We want to make sure that we launch successfully and users are enjoying the service. You're going to see a lot of ad tiles [placeholders, where spots will be inserted] in the beginning. We will turn on the sales effort when we get a better sense for the number of impressions being delivered by the different programming.

The impressions on [connected TV] will be significant. A number of advertisers are moving away from digital video. They are limiting their interest in running pre-roll ads or don't want to be associated with some of the content found on YouTube LLC, for any number of reasons.

STIRR has 20 or so national offerings at launch. You’re going to have more than 50 by year-end?

There certainly is no shortage of interest from providers wanting to be on the platform. We're looking at the value all of the channels can bring but are going to be selective. We're not looking at a 500-channel universe because that would become too broad for users to navigate.