Local Now provides real-time localized information to more than 225 markets across the US, with programming ranging from current events, weather, and traffic to lifestyle, sports, and business. Once a hyper-localized linear channel, the Local Now offering has evolved into a full streaming service and is available across a portfolio of over-the-top (OTT), mobile, and TV platforms, making it easy for viewers to tune in to a completely customized viewing experience.
Local Now works with its advertiser partners to marry local targeting with national scale. Brands can leverage their audience data to reach target audiences across the US with relevant messages about what’s happening in their own communities.
I chatted with Josh Sharma, VP, Ad Partnerships at Local Now, about how critical hyperlocal OTT content is to the overall streaming market.
Ryan Kenney: Can you tell us a bit more about the Local Now audience and the content they’re watching?
Josh Sharma: The Local Now audience differs widely because of the range of content we’re delivering to the user. We have everything from kids’ content for all the little ones still learning from home to financial news for those following the markets. There’s something for everyone in the thousands of titles we have available on demand or the hundreds of linear channels available for streaming.
RK: You’ve recently given your app, content, and experience a facelift. What has changed?
JS: The entire offering itself has changed. Local Now has historically been distributed as a hyper-localized linear channel to numerous distributor endpoints, such as Sling TV and Xumo to name a few. We’ve now expanded on that business and have gone to market with a fully fledged OTT streaming service. In addition to the linear channel that’s personalized for the user based on their location, we’ve also added channel programming from some of the most recognized names in the content business. To top it off, we’re providing thousands of movies and shows in an on-demand format.
RK: Local Now is unique in that you offer local OTT content with national scale. How do you work with advertisers to reach their target audiences?
JS: The biggest piece here comes down to education. The name “Local Now” inherently leads our agency and brand partners to believe that the offering is strictly a play for local advertising. While we have great tools thanks to the likes of SpotX to enable pinpoint targeting down to the zip code, the Local Now service commands great scale across the US.
In addition to educating our advertiser partners, we’ve enabled the ability to run against specific audiences or target the numerous content and context signals we pass in the ad request. This is another area of collaboration we’ve been focusing on. We’ve started working with agency partners on their substantial investments into proprietary data solutions and have eliminated a great deal of wasted impression opportunities by enabling them to layer on third-party data segments or send their first-party audiences to our data management platform (DMP) and match audiences for any given deal. This allows us to work with our advertising partners to ensure they’re getting what they need and exceeding any KPIs they’re looking to hit.
RK: How does Local Now explain the value of localized content to national brands?
JS: We appeal to the basic human nature of our need to be connected to our community. Most people out there want to know what’s going on in their local community. They want to know what the weather is like outside, what the traffic will be on their commute, or what’s generally happening in their city. That basic human need is what drives users to Local Now.
Because of our ties to The Weather Group and Allen Media Group, we have an incredible value proposition. We’re able to use the hyper-localization technology from TWG and marry that with content from numerous local broadcast affiliate groups that we’ve established through partnerships and acquisitions via Allen Media Group. The end result is a viewing experience completely customized to the user and their locale.
RK: Last year, the 2020 election and COVID-19 required advertisers to cater their messages to the unique situations happening within each city or even zip code. Did you see more brands taking a hyperlocal approach?
JS: Yes, 100%. It’s important for a marketer to not allow their brand to resonate with audiences as insensitive or tone-deaf to what’s going on in today’s world — a message that needs curating and is only applicable to specific regions. The pandemic may have very well changed the way we approach what used to be our everyday routines, including entertainment consumption.
The quarantine orders only exacerbated the decline in cable and satellite TV subscriptions — a medium that was already a small-margin business to operate. The result was an opportunity for us to take advantage of market conditions and provide users with great local content and allow advertisers to present their marketing messages in a very concerted and relevant manner.
RK: How do you foresee buyers evolving their local OTT strategies in 2021?
JS: The advertising strategy of spray and pray on TV for the sake of brand awareness isn’t cutting it anymore. Marketers and advertisers are demanding more for their media dollars and it’s with the use of digital advertising technology and the abundance of rich data that advertisers can measure the outcomes that matter to their media budgets. Outcome-based advertising will matter most in 2021, regardless of a TV or digital budget.
RK: What steps do advertisers need to take in order to effectively target their campaigns down to the DMA or zip-code level?
JS: Leverage the tools and capabilities that digital advertising presents. There are so many signals passed in a given ad request that platforms like SpotX can package to make the targeting as painless as possible.
RK: How has partnering with SpotX helped you grow your programmatic offerings and monetize your inventory?
JS: Partnering with SpotX has helped us put our ad inventory in the limelight without much heavy lifting on our part. Your team has been a great partner in providing the tools we need to drive our own sales efforts forward, but also providing an additional touchpoint with our agency and brand partners to evangelize our value proposition.
Learn more about Local Now’s premium inventory and plan your next campaign with SpotX Explorer.
Ryan Kenney is Vice President, Platform at SpotX, managing both business development and platform services in North America. His team is focused on cultivating relationships and partnerships with media owners to leverage the SpotX video platform for ad serving, programmatic yield optimization, and data enablement. Ryan’s focus is on developing deep, long-lasting relationships with media owners, publishers, and device manufacturers that are centered on building sustainable and progressive video monetization strategies. Ryan has a Bachelor of Science in business marketing from the University of Nevada, Reno.