Hearst Television is officially launching its bouquet of “Very Local” over-the-top streaming TV channels, spanning all 26 U.S. media markets it operates in — another bid by a legacy media company looking to reach younger viewers who aren’t watching TV the way Americans used to.
The debut of Very Local comes after several months of Hearst TV quietly piloting the free, ad-supported service. The channels — which include a national version, as well as those for local TV markets — are centered on newscasts from its stations (available on-demand within 90 minutes after they air).
In addition, Very Local mixes in content from Hearst Magazines, including Esquire, Delish and Runner’s World, as well as content from Hearst Television’s Stitch brand and shows like the long-running “Chronicle” newsmagazine series and its issues program “Matter of Fact with Soledad O’Brien.” Very Local also will serve as a platform for new, original series and specials, such as “Prom-ish,” a documentary film about high-school promgoers in the time of COVID.
On the OTT front, Hearst TV has trailed other TV station groups: Sinclair Broadcast Group, for one, launched its Stirr streaming app two years ago.
Andrew Fitzgerald, Hearst Television’s SVP of streaming video services, noted that the company was an early partner in the development of NewsON back in 2015. He said Hearst TV is debuting its owned-and-operated OTT and FAST service now given growing demand and the rise of broadband-only households.
“Consumers are diversifying the channels through which they consume media. We want to meet them where they are,” said Fitzgerald. He joined Hearst Television in 2017 from Twitter, where he headed Twitter Moments, originally as chief digital content officer.
Very Local is available in the channel stores of Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Apple TV and Android TV. In addition, livestreaming FAST (free, ad-supported streaming television) channels are available in the Very Local app as well as from Fox Corp.’s Tubi TV and Syncbak’s VUIt. Hearst is selling advertising for Very Local via its Anyscreen digital ad marketplace.
“If you missed today’s newscast or in-depth weather report, or if you just want to enjoy great local story-telling that celebrates your community, it will be on Very Local,” Fitzgerald said.
For now, Hearst TV doesn’t have iOS and Android mobile apps for Very Local, but Fitzgerald said the company “will likely develop” those down the line.