Broadcast tech entrepreneur Jack Perry, CEO of Syncbak, along with Gray Television and partner stations, is launching VUit, a new ad-supported streaming service banking on the appeal of local live content to grow audiences and capture ad revenue that’s migrating to digital.
VUit will have 200 stations at launch. It will be part of eleven-year-old Syncbak, which powers OTT delivery of live local broadcast signals for big streaming players from Hulu and CBS All Access to Fubo and the NFL. Perry will run it.
Gray, which owns stations and digital properties in 94 markets reaching about 24% of U.S. TV households (and production businesses Raycom Sports, Tupelo-Raycom and RTM Studios) is a significant investor in VUit, as it was in Syncbak. The tech firm’s other early investors include ViacomCBS, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and the Consumer Technology Association (CTA).
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Financials weren’t disclosed.
Meredith, Cowles Media Company, Heritage Broadcasting Group and Morgan Murphy Media are the other broadcast groups currently participating in VUit (pronounced ‘view it’) with the goal of continuing to add partners. The idea is to give local television a bigger and better shot at the current streaming revolution and the billions of ad dollars at stake. The service dubs itself ‘The Netflix of Live, Local and Free.’
At launch, VUit features livestreams of all local station partners. All have committed to producing 12 live, exclusive VUit Originals a month from sports, concerts, news and cultural events. VUit expects to stream more than 3 million hours of live programming annually including at least 2,500 originals.
The service is available on all major streaming platforms and devices, including iOS and Android devices, Roku, Amazon Fire TV and AppleTV.
“The current pandemic has underscored the true importance of and interest in local television news and local events — well beyond just the viewers a station traditionally serves,” Syncbak said.
VUit will be powered by local news gathering collaboration among its stations and supported by the companies’ local ad sales teams. Participating stations can promote each others’ VUit Originals and sell against them locally using Syncbak’s proprietary live DAI (dynamic ad insertion) technology called adSync. Stations can market VUit on-air during TV newscasts to drive the streamer’s viewership.
Syncbak founder Perry, who created the TV industry’s first geo-fencing and subscriber authentication technology, Geneva, followed by TitanTV, the first web-based electronic program guide, said VUit aims to turn “the traditional network concept on its head. Broadcast networks are built top down with the national feed as the core lens to the world. [But] VUit is grassroots up, enabling viewers to see what is happening in every community, and everyone has connections to other towns and cities.”
“The way we see it, VUit is the perfect complement to the binge culture. After you binge, you come to VUit to enjoy the best of local news, sports and culture from anywhere you want,” he added. He thinks the platform provides local television “the best opportunity to thrive in the streaming space, unlocking the limitless potential for local stations to grow their audiences both locally and nationally and capture significant digital advertising revenue.”
In addition to the live stream station channels, VUit will feature themed channels including Politics Uncut — built using Syncbak’s autobuild technology and programmed and populated with content from across all the participating stations — and original programming including a daily business show, Business First A.M., a food culture show food.curated and music video channel, Fly Over Music, spotlighting acts based in so-called ‘fly over’ states.
VUit follows Syncbak’s proof-of-concept local news OTT platform called SBTV, now VUit. Viewers who discovered it came back an average of 17 times a month and watched more than 30 minutes of content each time, the company said, citing a beta test by Heritage Broadcasting’s WWTV in Traverse City, Michigan that attracted viewers from 107 DMAs and globally to its livestream of a the ten-hour International 500 Snowmobile Race.
SBTV saw a major bump in sign-ins to its live streams of local stations during COVID-19. It premiered Syncbak’s first short film acquisition in May, Backlash starring Joel Murray and Eliza Murray. It was the most viewed piece of original on-demand content on the platform, attracting viewers from more than 115 DMAs.