Skip to content

Is Local OTT the New Global in Digital Advertising?

Earlier this spring, Major League Soccer team Real Salt Lake and Utah’s local NBC affiliate KSL-TV announced an intriguing new partnership, allowing fans to stream the team’s games using KSL’s own “over the top” (OTT) app. While OTT content and advertising is becoming an increasingly popular channel among marketers, most of these deals tend to be national in scope and involve network channels like CBS, ABC, or FOX. But this new pairing of local TV content with OTT distribution is actually part of a growing trend for video and TV publishers. Here are three reasons why advertisers need to give local video OTT content a closer look.

Local Now Has Access to Global Scale
The assumption about local TV among advertisers is that it is intended for a very specific audience, one that focuses on viewers in a specific region. But in an era of digital distribution those assumptions no longer apply. Even the smallest TV broadcasters now have access to an audience of potential viewers around the world. And if they distribute compelling content, they have an opportunity to boost viewership and ad partnerships significantly. Consider that Real Salt Lake, a soccer team that normally attracts 20,000 fans to home games, regularly receives between 30,000 and 50,000 OTT views during digital broadcasts. “Going over-the-top opens our content up to a much broader audience,” said Tanya Vea, vp and general manager for Bonneville Salt Lake City, in an interview with Adweek.

Local Reinforces the Importance of Buying Audiences
It’s true that not every advertiser is going to want to target Salt Lake City soccer fans. But KSL’s partnership with the team is a symbol of a bigger insight: advertisers will follow coveted audiences wherever they might be watching. And as more ad-supported OTT aggregator services (also known as MVPDs) bring local stations to viewers across the country, there are new opportunities for advertisers to take this audience buying strategy to the next level, either now or in the near future. “We think the virtual MVPDs, Sling TV and DirecTV Now, are ushering in an era of addressability that is unprecedented,” said Matt Bayer, svp of Advanced TV at Cadreon, the ad-tech unit of IPG Mediabrands in the Adweek piece. “Will that translate to local television? Probably when local gets their subs up and then you can start building really big audiences on the local level.”

Local Emphasizes the Power of Live TV
It’s also no surprise that KSL focused on live sports as one of its first big OTT content partnerships. That’s because live content is still a big draw for consumers, no matter if it’s aired on traditional TVs or streamed via a local broadcaster’s OTT app. As the KSL deal suggests, advertisers are likely to have growing opportunities to buy against live content distributed by local partners. While it may never end up being as big as the Super Bowl, for the right buyer looking for engaged viewers, these local OTT partnerships could be the perfect fit. And media executives agree that the performance of local live content warrants the early hype. “The length of view is incredible. The number of ad opportunities in a streaming context are significant, and we’re seeing a lot more streaming usage than VOD usage, which is exciting,” said Joe Fiveash, Raycom’s svp of digital media and strategy.

Local TV may not have the star-studded content of a national TV network, nor is it likely to have the same reach or scale with viewers. But thanks to the power of digital distribution via OTT services, today’s local TV players have started to level the playing field. Between the format’s growing viewership, opportunities to reach key target audiences, and access to live content experiences, it’s a combination that increasingly seems like a winning bet. Expect to see growing opportunities in local and digital as the worlds of video and TV continue to merge.