Television station owner Tegna expanded its reach into podcasting at the start of the year when it struck a deal to buy the Locked On Podcast Network. At today’s IAB NewFronts presentation for ad buyers, Tegna is detailing plans to build on Locked On’s reach by leveraging its portfolio of 64 TV stations in 51 markets and growing consumption of online video to build its audio business.
Tegna will make Locked On podcasts available immediately on select local Tegna TV stations’ Roku and Amazon Fire TV OTT apps and YouTube properties in their respective market. And in the coming months Tegna says the Locked On podcasts will be available on all stations’ streaming properties. In addition, Tegna is also developing a standalone OTT app for Locked On video content. It will be released later this year.
Adam Ostrow, Chief Digital Officer at Tegna, says several of Locked On’s more than 160 podcasts have already been producing video versions of their local-team focused shows. Those have made the easy jump onto Tegna television station websites mobile apps, and OTT streaming video apps in their markets. But he tells Podcast News Daily that Locked On has also begun launching YouTube channels for the sports podcasts regardless of whether Tegna owns a TV station in the city. For instance, the Locked On Celtics and Locked On Bulls podcast both have their own channels on YouTube even though Tegna does not own a station in Chicago.
“OTT is a big focus for Tegna overall, and sports is one of the biggest local passion points for our audience. So making Locked On’s podcasts – dedicated shows about the local teams our audience cares about – available as video seemed like a natural fit for how we’re evolving,” said Ostrow. “And as people’s consumption habits get more back to normal post-pandemic, we want people to be able to consume Locked On wherever they are – when they’re commuting or at the gym, that might mean as a podcast, but when they’re at home, it might mean on their smart TV.”
Nearly all Locked On podcasts are also now creating what it calls “Locked On Now” videos. They are short – 60 to 90 seconds in length – of the podcast hosts reacting to breaking news about their team. Those clips are easily shared on social media, which then drive sports fans back to the podcast or to their video elements.
“By expanding to video, we think we’re increasing the size of the opportunity for Locked On overall,” said Ostrow. “While podcasting is growing tremendously as a medium with both audiences and advertisers, video is still the behemoth. So, we’re tapping a larger potential audience and advertiser pool.” And by expanding to platforms like YouTube, he said Tegna will be able to reach demographics it does not typically reach on television.
As more podcasters made video versions of their show available, it has stretched the definition of what a “podcast” is. Some producers have worried that it could hurt the growth of the audio format if listeners are given the option to watch their favorite show. But Tegna’s experience so far suggests video may broaden podcasting’s reach long-term.
“We’re not seeing any cannibalization,” said Ostrow. “What we’re also finding in our early moves into video is that we’re attracting audience we don’t have on our podcasts.”
He said Tegna’s Dallas Mavericks YouTube channel has 2,500 subscribers, and more than half of the video views are coming from outside the U.S. While that may be partly because of the international popularity of their star player Luca Doncic, Ostrow thinks it is a good example of the new audience opportunities they will be able to unlock as they add video to more of Locked On’s shows.
“The goal is to get the average listener or viewer to consume more of Locked On content,” said Ostrow. “If they’re listening to five podcasts per month now, maybe we can expand that to listening to five podcasts and also watching two additional episodes on video, because they’re consuming in different environments.”
Linking Local TV To Podcast Downloads
No local television company has dedicated more resources to building a podcast business than Tegna. It launched Vault Studios to produce audio content in March 2019 and to date the division has released ten podcasts , primarily in the true crime genre leveraging its local crime reporters. Even as Locked On continues to operate as a standalone business within Tegna, Ostrow says its integration into what is primarily a television company is going well.
“Lots of stations are highly engaged, having Locked On hosts as guests on-air frequently, and teaming up for major events like the NFL Draft and MLB Opening Day,” he said. “The Locked On shows are also making use of the content that our stations gather every day – for example, an interview with a player or coach might get cut down to 45 seconds on TV, but we can use the full eight minutes on a Locked On show.”
Last week was the biggest week ever for Locked On in terms of downloads. There is no hard evidence yet that the content sharing and cross-promotion between local TV stations and Locked On is impacting download numbers. But the anecdotal evidence suggests there could be a lift.
“We have seen some nice spikes in markets where the Locked On hosts are appearing on TV, but that often coincides with big news about the team, so there’s naturally going to be a spike,” said Ostrow. “In general, Locked On’s audience continues to grow, and in some cases even more so where we have tight integration with the local TV station.”