The State of News Streaming: Old and New Media’s Play to Survive

From HuffPost Live to new CBS and MSNBC digital networks, here’s TheWrap’s Streaming 101 guide

Last Updated: January 29, 2015 @ 10:13 AM

As younger audiences’ list of TV, desktop, tablet, mobile, and social content options grow by the day, legacy and new media executives are bending backward and forward to earn their eyeballs.

On TV news, the youngest audience is around 58, higher than the 18-49 and 25-54 age demo sweet spot advertisers desire. On the high end, a variety of news networks’ audiences skew even older, hovering close to 70.

With the knowledge that getting younger is now a matter of survival from extinction, some of the biggest news channels, print outlets, and digital news sites have developed their own networks and features to attract new audiences who might not be consuming traditional media.

Here’s the who’s who of streaming news:

HuffPost Live
Launched in 2012, HuffPost Live isn’t the first original-programming based web channel, but it has become one of the most successful. Last week, it surpassed 2 billion video views overall, and the program—which streams for 8 hours per day, 5 days a week—attracts an average viewer for 15 minutes or more.

Mirroring its Huffington Post mothership, the channel was built on being multi-layered as to not be too politics-centric. An average day offers everything from segments about the race for 2016 to the great debate as to whether it’s beirut or beer pong.

With two years in the can, the network has also become attractive to big-name sponsors: so far in 2015, BMW, Bank of America, Disney, Skype, American Greetings, and Energizer have all signed on to sponsor segments. And in November, HuffPost Live joined Hulu’s lineup.

The network’s president, Roy Sekoff, had a tongue-in-cheek response to so many other streaming networks sprouting up after them.

“If imitation is truly the sincerest form of flattery, we are really, really flattered by The Shift. And CBSN. And Vice News’ plans for a live talk show,” Sekoff told TheWrap. “It’s not surprising to see so many different companies trying to make their platforms and their programming much more social and in sync with the digital and mobile media world we’re living in – that’s the bet we’ve been making for the last 3 years, with great results. We welcome the new folks to the party.”

“Shift” by MSNBC
The newest big-name streaming player, MSNBC launched “The Shift” at the tail-end of 2014 with the hopes of trying out new talent, topics, and formats.

“The debut of shift has exceeded our expectations right out of the gate,” MSNBC.com VP and Executive Editor Richard Wolffe told TheWrap. “MSNBC was born of a spirit of innovation and we are accelerating that innovation across all platforms in ways that will grow and strengthen everything we do.”

The channel, linkable through MSNBC.com’s homepage, is vastly different than MSNBC TV’s politics focus. Shows hosted by fresh faces like The New York Times’ Josh Barro, NBC News foreign correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin, NBC News congressional correspondent  Luke Russert, and MSNBC’s Krystal Ball cover a broader spectrum of topics ranging from politics to business and pop culture.

Only a month old and launched before the holidays, it’s too early to have reflective traffic numbers. But some positive markers indicate Shift is lifting MSNBC.com—on the night of the “State of the Union,” social traffic around The Shift’s coverage reached 1,500 comments while MSNBC.com as a whole saw a 130 percent increase in unique visitors as compared to SOTU 2014.

And equally important for MSNBC—which fell into third place behind CNN last year in every metric besides primetime total viewers—is Shift’s ability to gauge reaction to different faces and topics in a less high-stakes way than thrusting them into the spotlight of the TV network.

CBSN

CBSN (CBS)

A month before MSNBC, CBS became the first of the broadcast networks to launch a separate, original streaming network with CBSN.

Featuring a 60-minute format and live news updated from 9 a.m.-midnight ET weekdays, CBSN has a functionality that gives viewers control over content. On the left side of the screen, next to the featured live viewing window, lies individual segments and video packages already taped for viewers to click on and watch right then and there. Topics run the gamut from news and politics to culture and health.

“It’s not just like taking a television program and putting it on the web, and it’s not like all VOD where you have to work with it; it’s meant to be some place in between,” CBS News chief David Rhodes told TheWrap in November.

In comparison to “The Shift” and HuffPost Live, CBSN is a little more buttoned-up and polished, with traditional news packages being reported by correspondents vs. the more casual talk format of the formers.

“One thing that’s very encouraging is the variety of news stories which have drawn audiences to CBSN,” Rhodes told TheWrap. “Ferguson, Sydney, the State of the Union—important news developments drove viewership.”

Three months in, CBSN seems to be giving the network a boost. On Roku, CBS News has moved into the top spot among news channels, ranking first in hours streamed for both November and December. Viewer engagement is also trending the right way—among returning connected TV users, 88 percent watch multiple times per week.

Fox News

The number-one rated news channel was actually at the forefront of live streaming in 2008, launching “The Strategy Room” during the months leading up to the presidential election between Barack Obama and Senator John McCain. The program aired live on Foxnews.com Monday-Friday for eight hours a day with FNC correspondents moderating casual panels of guests. In recent years, Fox has scaled back the all-day live format in favor of TV spinoffs online.

Lunchtime chat show “Outnumbered” has a half-hour daily extension online, titled “Overtime,” where co-hosts answer viewers’ Twitter questions. The network’s signature political show, “Special Report” with Bret Baier offers a weekly extension online where the show’s panel discusses political topics of the day for an extra 15 minutes. And “Strategy Room” continues to air in a more limited capacity, mostly around big political events like the recent midterm elections.

These streaming spinoffs are helping Fox top its competition in average minutes per visit: according to analytics site Omniture, Foxnews.com averaged 53 minutes per visit in December, topping NBCNews.com, CNN, and The New York Times.

TheBlaze TV

Glenn Beck‘s digital network is on a subscription-based platform offering an all-day dose of libertarian-laced programming.

Streaming Beck’s radio program in the morning and a digital show in the evening, other original shows include those hosted by conservative firebrand Dana Loesch and former CIA analyst Buck Sexton.

TheBlaze is also available on TV on Dish, RCN, Suddenlink, and other smaller distributors.

Couric Gregory

Yahoo

CEO Marissa Mayer made a significant investment in digital when she hired former “Today” star Katie Couric to be Yahoo’s global news anchor in 2013.

The site doesn’t have a daily streaming subchannel yet, but Couric has served as its anchor for events like the midterm election and most recently the State of the Union. During the former, Couric hosted a livestream with special correspondent David Gregory and other guests.

Couric’s also gone up against TV’s big guns to try and land newsmaker interviews: recently, she landed an exclusive interview with embattled actor Stephen Collins, who admitted to fondling young children.

In her year at Yahoo before that, she’s interviewed Secretary of State John Kerry, the brother and sister of beheaded journalist James Foley, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the children of President Lyndon Baines Johnson, and potential presidential candidate and current Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Bloomberg

Bloomberg shook up the political media world—and its wallet—in 2014 with the hire of “Game Change” co-authors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann to helm its political coverage.

In addition to livestreaming the duo’s Bloomberg TV show “With All Due Respect” on BloombergPolitics.com simultaneously, Bloomberg Politics provides anchored livestreams of events like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s State of the State address and the recent Iowa Freedom Summit. At the latter,  Mark Halperin interviewed Rep. Marsha Blackburn and Donald Trump, who spoke at the event.

“Smart analysis of news as it happens–accessible via web, mobile, and tablet–is a top priority for us,”  Bloomberg Politics Executive Editor Tom Johnson told TheWrap. “Live streaming coverage of the Iowa Freedom Summit exemplifies the kind of reporting we are planning in the run-up to 2016.”

CNN

CNN might not have a live, streaming network per se, but Digital General Manager Andrew Morse points out the original cable news network is down with digital.

“CNN already has a 24 hour live-streaming service. It’s called television and we do it very well. For viewers that want to watch our TV network on digital platforms, they can with CNNgo. But, there is a native digital audience that wants something different. When we produce original live streams, we want to make sure it’s not a poor man’s version of a cable network.”

In addition to CNNgo, CNN had invested in CNN Digital Studios, which features short-form videos produced by CNN.

PostTV (The Washington Post)

The Washington Post had previously made an investment in streaming and on-demand video in 2013. The paper launched PostTV as a mix of live shows hosted by reporters like Nia-Malika Henderson and Chris Cillizza, as well as on-demand videos.

Since then, the live portion has scaled back considerably with short-form videos from political reporters like Robert Costa becoming more of the norm. Original videos go beyond politics, with original series in business, technology, and sports all being offered.

The New York Times

A spokesperson for The New York Times told TheWrap: “We are not doing much in streaming at the moment and are not able to participate.”

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