Aug 22, 2023 - Economy

Exclusive: Cox Media Group launches hyper-local streaming service "Neighborhood TV"

Illustration of a vintage television split with a modern smart television.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Local broadcast company Cox Media Group is launching a hyper-local streaming network called Neighborhood TV, in partnership with McClatchy, its executive chair Steve Pruett told Axios.

Why it matters: CMG hopes NTV will help expand its reach to thousands of hyper-local communities in America, complementing the existing reach of its roughly five dozen local television and radio broadcast networks.

The big picture: More local broadcasters are hedging their bets in the streaming era by launching free, ad-supported streaming networks that complement, but don't compete with, the content they are paid to license to traditional television carriers.

  • Hearst launched its ad-supported streaming network, "Very Local," in 2021. Sinclair launched STIRR, a streaming network for local news and sports, in 2019.

Details: NTV will launch officially on Tuesday, after having been available in test mode on desktop and mobile in Atlanta and Charlotte, two of the cities where CMG currently operates a local broadcast network.

  • The streaming service will be available via over-the-air streaming platforms as well as its website and mobile app. The service offers unique, 24/7 content feeds to specific neighborhoods within a bigger demographic market area.
  • The feeds include content produced by local NTV staffers, licensed feeds from the video platform Stringr, and some content from the streaming services dedicated to its local broadcast stations, like WSB-TV in Atlanta and WSOC-TV in Charlotte.
  • The content is meant to be relevant to "really local" communities, as Pruett calls them, which means stories spotlighting local school board issues, restaurants and nightlife updates, local sporting events, and weather.

Zoom in: To give you a sense of how hyper-local the service is meant to be, Pruett told Axios in an interview that CMG's test stream servicing 1 million people in north Atlanta was probably too big.

  • "Ultimately, we want to reach 400,000–500,000, but we had to start somewhere," he said. "We can always make zones smaller."

By the numbers: CMG is looking to launch in 50 "zones" in the next three years. Within one zone, there can be several neighborhoods, which the company defines as a cluster of zip codes within a 6- to 8-mile radius.

  • NTV is currently available in 100 neighborhoods — 70 in Georgia and 30 in North Carolina. (CMG's stations are mostly based in the Southeast region of the U.S.)
  • CMG plans to eventually reach as many as 5,000 neighborhoods across the U.S., Pruett said. It will expand to Orlando in September.
  • The number of neighborhood streams within a particular zone will vary, Pruett said. In Atlanta, for example, CMG is targeting 8–12 different neighborhood streams.

Between the lines: To help it scale quickly, CMG is partnering with local newspaper company McClatchy to distribute its hyper-local streams on the homepages of McClatchy's newspapers, such as The Charlotte Observer.

Be smart: All of the content and streams will be made available to consumers for free, supported by advertising.

  • To start, CMG will focus on selling ad space to small- and medium-sized businesses within the communities they cover. As it scales, it plans to sell more ad space to national advertisers looking to target ads to certain geographies.
  • NTV is not yet profitable, Pruett said, He expects that each zone launched should be able to turn a profit within a year.

Disclosure: Cox Enterprises owns Axios. Cox Enterprises is a minority investor in Cox Media Group.

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