By: Mitch Weinraub, Founder, Weinraub Media LLC
During times of threat and crisis, Americans traditionally turn to their local news outlets as a lifeline. Local newspapers, radio and broadcast TV are credible sources of timely information that provide guidance when things are turned upside down. Often, without the “spin” of many of the national news services, local TV news can provide the information that viewers crave.
COVID-19 is once again driving the need for real local news and the numbers show what’s happening. In late March, Nielsen Media was already showing significant increases in local TV and local TV news viewership. Across their top 25 markets they reported an average 7% increase in viewership across all age groups. However, when you look at the largest cities (not coincidentally those that saw the COVID-19 threat the earliest) the increases were even more significant. San Francisco saw an enormous 38% increase in viewership while Orlando, Los Angeles, Seattle and Boston all showed increases greater than 20%. New York, at the time, reported a 12% gain.
In prior crises, where and how viewers could access local TV news was limited. For the most part, it required gathering around the big box in the living room or den. Today, with products from FlexVU partner companies like Plex, Tablo, Watch Air and AirTV, viewers can use a single antenna to watch free local broadcast channels on just about any device they own. FlexVU is an ecosystem of companies that provide compatible technologies and products for “cord cutter” solutions. These inexpensive devices seamlessly integrate live local television into a customer’s streaming world. In effect, they bring broadcast TV into the streaming environment that many customers prefer today, all with no monthly programming fees.
Unlike broadcast TV of the past, today’s broadcast TV is digital, high-definition and includes high-quality surround sound. With today’s HDTV broadcasts most customers who live within about 35 miles of their local broadcast towers can use an indoor antenna and those up to about 55 miles away can use an outdoor antenna. Taken together, this covers between 60%-70% of the US population.
While the major broadcast networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, PBS and CW) tend to attract the most attention, the major US markets offer these and much more in free, broadcast OTA (over the air) television. These markets offer 50, 60 and in some cases up to 90 local TV stations that any consumer can watch for free. In times when many consumers are looking to cut monthly expenses, OTA television provides a great foundation for just about any cord cutter bundle. These channels include the best in prime-time programming (NCIS, CSI, The Masked Singer, The Bachelor, The Voice, This is Us to name a few), local news and information from local, professional journalists and (when things start to get back to normal) locals sports including the customer’s local NFL team. When added to a subscription video on demand (SVOD) product of choice like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+, etc., the cost conscious consumer can get dozens of live TV channels with excellent high quality programming and their “must have” binge series for only the monthly cost of that single streaming provider.
Before this crisis began, many of those under 35 years of age, who grew up with cable or satellite TV didn’t even know that this TV programing was available for free. It is all free as a result of the FCC’s broadcast licensing structure. These local TV stations hold licenses granted by the FCC and are required to provide free over the air access to their programming in exchange for these licenses. Broadcasters get to use the public airwaves and consumers get access to great programming for free.
It also tends to be a secret that most cable and satellite TV subscribers pay $10-$15 a month to get these local channels when purchased as part of a “basic” cable package. While that’s only part of the average $70-$100 a month cable bill, it’s pretty amazing that on an annual basis, subscribers are paying $120 – $180 that can potentially be free. Now the secret is out, with an HDTV antenna and one of the many devices available from FlexVU partner companies it is no longer necessary to pay “Big Cable” monthly fees for channels that most Americans can get for free. In fact, if a customer drops their cable TV video package and instead chooses broadcast TV and a single streaming service like Netflix, they would be saving almost $1000 a year.
Having the right hardware in place is the key to getting this great programming deal. Choosing the right FlexVU device is the first step. Consumers can choose between network-connected devices with dual or quad Over-The-Air TV tuners that allow two or four simultaneous streams of live broadcast TV at a time. If you’d like the ability to record all of this great TV programming to watch whenever you want, some devices come with built in DVR capabilities, while others allow for DVR storage by simply adding a USB hard drive. Consumers also have the ability to decide how they want to watch their OTA TV programming. Some FlexVU devices feed the channels directly to a single television or device, while others can distribute the local content wirelessly to multiple internet-connected devices both inside and outside of the home. An example of a multi-tuner OTA streaming DVR from a FlexVU Partner is Tablo: https://www.tablotv.com/.
The right TV antenna is another important decision. Consumers who live in the city near their local broadcast towers or in the suburbs, can often purchase a simple, “paper thin” indoor window antenna to get 30-50 TV channels. These simple indoor antennas are available both in local electronics stores and on-line for less than $50. For those that live further in the outer suburbs or in more rural areas, an outdoor antenna might be necessary to get all of that free content. Consumers who aren’t sure which antenna might be right for where they live, can take advantage of services offered by FlexVU partner, Antennas Direct at www.antennasdirect.com or 1-877-825-5572, to find out which antenna is best for them.
For consumers looking to stay in touch with important local news and watch the highest rated television programming while reducing their monthly entertainment budget, the secret is out. Free OTA over-the-air broadcast stations provide dozens of live HDTV local channels and the FlexVU partners provide the equipment and advice necessary to receive these channels and watch them on devices both inside and outside of the home.
Right now, when many consumers are looking to cut the cord and reduce their monthly expenses, these FlexVU partners have special offers and deals available. Customers can follow the links below to get free TV and deals on the hardware (and software) to bring it into their lives.
- Tablo TV for Cord Cutters
- TV Antennas from Antennas Direct
- See the latest SLING deals
- Watch Free Local TV in HD with AirTV
- WatchAir Antennas
- Plex App – bringing together live TV & DVR, news and podcasts in a single app