TV News In The Streaming Age: Niche Services Or Something Bigger?

Can national TV news networks transition to national TV news streamers when cord-cutting accelerates? And what happens to local TV stations news programs in a streaming world?

Tom Rogers, the first president of NBC Cable, the unit that started CNBC, worries about news content issues in future.

Unlike glamorous entertainment content wrapped around big premium video streaming platforms, niche TV news content might be a harder sell -- at least to get real scale.

Packaging news content at high-profile streamers seems an uneasy fit. For example, after watching “Friends: The Reunion” or “Wonder Woman 1984,” would you hanker for that special CNN news miniseries on “The Eighties”?

Legacy owners of TV news networks are looking for separate executions. Fox News Channel started Fox Nation in November 2018. Recently, CNN announced it was working on a CNN+ (working title) to be a separate sister service to HBO Max.



Fractionalizing traditional TV content might be having a moment. What happens to the pieces that don’t fit?

Think about the viewers of TV news network -- a more polarizing group than ever before. There are conservative, Republican-thinking viewers on Fox News Channel, and -- on the other side -- Democratic-leaning/liberal-sided consumers for MSNBC and CNN.

Right now, traditional pay TV consumers pay for all channels on their service -- whether they watch or not. You don’t enjoy Tucker Carlson on Fox News Channel on your cable TV service? Too bad. You still pay for it.

Consider news operations starting  their own niche news streamers. For example, like WarnerMedia’s CNN’s, Comcast Corp. can do this with NBC News, MSNBC and CNBC. But would this be enough to make it as a profitable niche streamer?

For a rough comparison, Rogers says to gauge the performance of subscription service Apple News+ -- which started in March 2019. It houses lot of news content, costing $9.99. Rogers correctly analyzes that its performance has “so far has been underwhelming in terms of its adoption.”

Local TV stations? That might be a more complicated issue. Their local news content is the basis for ad revenue and transmission fee gains. But analysts surmise both are weakening or leveling at best.

Is there a future for streaming local TV news? So far, we don’t see any promising models.

Rogers suggests broader reach and scale might be an answer -- packaging national TV news with local TV news. Another idea: Start a streaming distributor comprising all TV-video news platforms, as a more neutral “Switzerland-like player.”

Well, that would mean U.S. TV news viewers would need to watch content outside their favorite “echo chambers.” Shaking up strong political news affiliation isn’t easy. Like skiing the toughest mountain range in Switzerland.

1 comment about "TV News In The Streaming Age: Niche Services Or Something Bigger?".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, June 10, 2021 at 12:41 p.m.

    Wayne, regarding local news, which in terms of total viewing time is larger than either broadcast network or cable news, many SVOD/AVOD subs are going to get this via their new streaming bundles---except instead of getting every station in their market, they will be able to pick and choose which service---or services---offer their favorite local news stations and buy only them. The same thing applies to the broadcast network and cable news operations. Instead of being forced---via "pay TV"---to receive all of them, streaming  subs will probably select those SVOD/AVOD packages that provide their favorite national news and "commentary" reports. As for the news "niches", that's another question and, at this point, I would say that the outlook is definitely uncertain.

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