ABC is expected to announce May 9 that it has joined forces with WorldNow, a provider of Internet solutions for local television stations, to build an online network that will seek national advertising and provide additional content for TV station Web sites.
Called the Local Media Network, the venture will feature 147 local station Web sites, including ABC’s major market owned-and-operated TV stations as well as Web sites from TV stations with various network affiliations owned by Belo, LIN TV, Raycom, Liberty Corp., The New York Times Co. and Meredith Corp., among others. Plans call for both ABC and WorldNow to share selling duties for the LMN.
In all, ABC and WorldNow claim that the LMN boasts 20 million unique monthly visitors, putting it just behind news sections run by Yahoo, MSN, AOL and Google-which ABC and WorldNow said are the LMN’s competition. That number could quickly grow to 30 million should the alliance bring in some of the partners with which LMN is presently holding discussions.
With many publicly traded station groups being whipsawed by investors over the year-over-year fluctuations in revenue associated with the flood of political advertising spending in even-numbered years and the dearth of it in odd-numbered years, an ever-growing number of station group executives have turned to their Web sites as a potential source of new-and more stable-revenue.
These station groups are able to use their Web sites as a tool to lure advertisers such as carpenters, dentists and real estate agents, who might not otherwise do business with a television station and tend not to be influenced by the greater forces that govern ad spending among more traditional players. And if the Web sites can begin to generate meaningful revenue, the thinking goes, that could settle those year-to-year swings that have dogged station groups.
But the LMN is focused less on luring local dollars as it is on grabbing some of the national dollars being increasingly directed to the Web.
“By WorldNow and ABC coming together and aggregating more broadcasters, we truly will have the stature to be considered by the [media] planners,” said Gary Gannaway, WorldNow’s chairman and CEO.
Added John Watkins, president of sales at ABC Owned Television Stations: “When you get to 20 million unique users, this allows you to step into the next range of total national sales.”
The launch of LMN comes while online advertising continues to achieve legitimacy among traditional advertisers. According to research released last week by technology consultancy Forrester Research, online advertising and marketing is expected to surge 23 percent in 2005 to $14.7 billion, compared with a year ago. By 2010 online advertising could represent 8 percent of total advertising spending-about the same share of the pie that cable, satellite and radio presently have, according to Forrester.
Further, the LMN is being rolled out just as Yahoo, Google and other big-name Web sites move to offer local news content-something they have lacked in any meaningful way until just recently as they focused instead on national news.
At the heart of LMN is localism-and its ties to local news. Mr. Watkins and Mr. Gannaway both pointed out that most people get their news from local media, and oftentimes local TV station Web sites is the source. Both men said that LMN will enable national advertisers to get closer to potential customers and enable those advertisers to begin targeting specific audiences based on a variety of parameters.
What’s more, because most of the participating local TV stations aren’t strangers to streaming video and rely heavily on it in their online news stories, ABC and WorldNow officials said that advertisers keen on using video-based advertising now have a home.