Commentary

Syncbak, Nielsen Test Is An Important Step for Broadcasters

As time marches on, it appears the local television business is inching closer and closer to joining the mobile video trend already in progress. On Tuesday, Nielsen and Syncbak, a streaming company whose technology lets viewers watch TV broadcast within a station’s range, said they’d completed a two-week trial that verified broadcasters can get measurable online viewing data.

The two companies tested tablet and mobile measurement of four stations—WCBS in New York, WLNY in Long Island and KCBS and KCAL in Los Angeles.

All the stations are owned by CBS, which stands to reason since CBS is an investor in Syncbak and is rushing to get to mobile. In mid-May Disney’s ABC  started allowing viewers in New York and Philadelphia to watch the station’s live stream on some mobile phones in an experiment, with more ABC stations and Hearst ABC affiliates joining later.

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It’s obviously a huge deal that broadcast stations, that can seem an increasingly distant choice for some advertisers and viewers, get with the game plan. Local television still has so many advantages over other media, but mainly the biggest one is that neighborly touch the best local stations have worked for the last half century or so.

If stations can capture the growing and largely younger mobile audience with the same content they provide over the air, that’s a potent shot in the arm. They need it. Local television advertising was expected to rise only 1.3% this year, less than most other ad sectors, though in ways that should count—advertisers reaching locals on a local outlet—broadcasters should have an advantage.

Syncbak is already in the digital space with other outlets. Last month, Gray Television announced that all 41 of its stations would go on the platform.  Altogether, about 200 stations have linked up with Syncbak.

 But more stations better get with it. Digital laggards could be a local TV killer. “If you’re not there, you’re going to lose them,” Jack Myers, chairman of Myers Media Business Network and author of Hooked Up, a book about digital’s growing impact on youth and society, told Broadcasting & Cable’s Michael Malone.  He goes further:  “To maintain loyalty, stations need to develop content for mobile that’s not just streaming [their signal]. So much media consumption is on mobile— they have no choice but to be there.”

“As consumers access programming in new ways content creators and providers need viewing on all platforms to be captured; local television stations play a critical role in this delivery ecosystem,” said David Poltrack, Chief Research Officer at CBS, in a statement that sounds like a statement but also is the way Poltrack, who is an old hand at the network tends to really talk. Now it’s time for CBS and local broadcasters to really get going.

pj@mediapost.com 

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