Digital Broadcast Subchannel Networks Look For Better Results

The business of locally delivered digital broadcast networks has taken somewhat of a hit: ABC’s Live Well network will be pulled in January after more than five years of operation.

The network, focused on lifestyle and how-to programming, was carried by ABC’s owned-and-operated stations and 50 other stations.

What went wrong? “Despite Live Well’s tremendous accomplishments in distribution and original programming, we made a strategic decision that our priority must be local content, and we want to maximize our investment in our core local news brands in the digital space,” Rebecca Campbell, president of the ABC Owned Television Stations Group, said in a memo, as reported in Variety.

Attracting national advertising for locally delivered digital broadcast networks -- especially those that don’t have a national footprint of 70% or more U.S. TV homes -- can be challenging. Live Well reached nearly 64% of U.S. homes.



Digital broadcast networks with better national coverage include Chicago-based Weigel Broadcasting’s Me-TV (available in 89% of homes), which pulled in 470,000 overall total average primetime viewers for the week ending June 1. Bounce Media’s Bounce TV (71% of homes) was at 250,000, and Liberman Broadcasting’s Estrella TV, at 180,000 viewers. By way of comparison, The CW network pulled in 1 million prime-time viewers that week.

Mid-sized entrepreneurs in the space still have a challenge to gain viewer awareness and advertising revenues. Bigger name players – like ABC -- have a different perspective.  For the most part, they believe the local subchannels should be skewed more to individual market needs.

While some local digital stations have decent coverage over the air, not all cable, satellite, and telco distributors are clamoring to distribute programming that may compete with existing channels, particularly those in which they may have a strong financial interest.

Chicken and/or egg? Unless those local digital stations warrant carriage through better viewership, it will be a tough meal to make.

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