Local News Has An Edge On CTV And FAST

Recent research shows news outperforms all other categories in the FAST ecosystem, yet another reason for local broadcasters to leverage their content there and on as many CTV platforms as they can.

Mary Collins

A few weeks ago, a 2024 presidential candidate complained on social media that MSNBC was using “FREE government approved airwaves” to criticize that candidate. Of course, those working in the media industry understand that MSNBC is not a broadcast network and does not use the airwaves to deliver its content. Further, since the Fairness Doctrine was repealed during the late 1980s, broadcasters are not obligated to provide more than one viewpoint on contestable issues. In ways both good and bad, the business of broadcasting is just not what it used to be.

The competitive environment for video news was already changing before the FCC discarded the Fairness Doctrine. National cable news channels, such as MSNBC, gave viewers in-depth national reporting that broadcasters simply didn’t have the time to cover. Then came access to the World Wide Web, which could offer information (and misinformation) on-demand and from around the globe.

Broadcasters have always had the responsibility of providing local content to their communities. This is part of the commitment they make to receive an FCC license to use the broadcast airwaves. It’s also what makes them valued in the community. People want community and regional news, weather, sports and traffic information from sources they can trust. Local on-air talent become familiar faces and earn viewers’ confidence. I’m sure that’s one of the reasons the Chicago Tribune, for example, features weather reports from the local ABC station’s meteorologists instead of picking up the information from a national weather service. They want to reinforce the perception of being a local newspaper.

This confidence in local broadcasting is not just my observation. Pew Research’s Local TV News Fact Sheet, published in September 2023, states: “Television remains a common place for Americans to get their news, and one of the most preferred sources for local news specifically.”

Despite this, the research company’s News Platform Fact Sheet, published in November, says that 86% of U.S. adults often or sometimes get news on their phone, on a tablet or by using a computer. Further, as of 2023, 58% of those surveyed preferred to get their news on a digital device, while those favoring viewing on a television were only 27% of the respondents.


The picture becomes murkier still when one factors in the various offerings that now make up the television ecosystem. The choice is no longer simply broadcast or cable/MVPD. With connected televisions (CTVs), consumers have the choice of AVOD (Advertising-supported Video On Demand); SVOD (Subscription Video On Demand); TVOD (Transactional Video On Demand), which includes, among other extensions, both the option of streaming pay-per-view and in-stream purchases; HVOD (Hybrid Video On Demand); and other options that I’ve either skipped or are in development. CTVs also supports FAST (Free Ad-Supported Streaming Television) channels, which are programmed linearly and internet-delivered.

When looking at FAST channels, it’s interesting to note that news offerings significantly outperform other options, despite being underrepresented. In October, media commentator Evan Shapiro posted a graphic, using data from OMDIA, showing that news, which accounts for only 18.3% of total FAST channels, commands 53.8% of hours viewed and 47.7% of served advertising impressions. Further, according to the accompanying blog, the average length of time a consumer spends with a FAST news channel is longer than that spent on all “comparable channels.” Shapiro further comments, “News appears to be generating whatever appointment viewing looks like in FAST.”

But remember, Pew found that 86% of U.S. adults often or sometimes consume news on a non-television digital device. More concerning is that 58% prefer to get their news using such a device. Advertisers are aware of these trends and are adjusting their spending accordingly

At the beginning of this month, in a post called Tick Tock, Shapiro shared Dentsu’s 2023 projected year-over-year ad trends. There is revenue growth, but it’s not in traditional media or linear television. Specifically, Dentsu projects that traditional media will be down 2.0% from 2022, dollars spent on linear TV advertising will shrink by 1.9%, but digital will be up 7.2%, search dollars will grow 7.2%, CTV’s increase will be 20.2% and retail ad spend will rise by a total of 22% between 2022 and 2023.

What I take from all of this is that there are great opportunities for content-producing local media groups, if they choose to embrace them. Look at those projected increases for ad spending in digital and CTV. It is local video groups, television stations, that own the news programming consumers find most valuable — local weather, traffic and crime are in the top three. The challenge is in figuring out how to repackage and monetize this content while offering it in the various ways consumers now prefer. The market is there. We’ve already seen the successful  example of Capitol Broadcasting’s launch of WRAL+, which includes FAST channel distribution, podcasting and an over-the-air offering.

If you are a local broadcaster making New Year’s resolutions, I recommend including one about leveraging the value of your local news content.

Former president and CEO of the Media Financial Management Association and its BCCA subsidiary, Mary M. Collins is a change agent, entrepreneur and senior management executive. She can be reached at

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