Local Now adds 18 CBS FAST channels, survey finds younger viewers still watch local news

Allen Media Group’s Local Now has added 18 CBS channels to its free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) platform, including more than a dozen local news stations.

In addition to local CBS stations the new partnership adds CBS News Streaming and entertainment channels including CBS Sports Golazo Network (a 24/7 channel dedicated to soccer), CBS Media Ventures’ Inside Edition, and Dabl, a lifestyle-focused channel featuring the likes of Martha Stewart and Emeril Lagasse, among others.

Local Now cited increases in viewing on CBS stations, noting minutes streamed are up 61% so far in 2023 compared to the same period in 2022.

Michael Senzon, president of digital at Allen Media Group, told StreamTV Insider that the partnership is “a continuum of our promise to be the most localized `news and entertainment platform available.”

He added that under the helm of CBS’ Wendy McMahon and Sahand Sepehrnia, together they’re “continuing to build on CBS’ pioneering focus of programming,” characterizing the move to put 14 local channels in big markets dedicated to streaming as a big deal.

Similarly, McMahon in the announcement highlighted the partnership as expanding its reach as it looks to grow streaming.

“Bringing our FAST channels to Local Now represents the next step in accelerating the growth of our streaming business," said McMahon, president and CEO of CBS News and Stations and CBS Media Ventures, in a statement. "We're seeing significant increases in the total minutes streamed on our platforms this year. Partnering with the Allen Media Group will help us expand our reach even further, and not just in local news, but also with our flagship CBS News national streaming channel, CBS SportsGolazo Network, Inside Edition and Dabl."

In a statement Sepehrnia, SVP of streaming at CBS Stations also noted the partnership allows it to build on momentum and attract more viewers to the company’s FAST channels, while hinting at expanding further with “potentially more channels in the month ahead.”

As for Allen Media Group and Local Now, Senzon said they’re thrilled to have CBS on the platform, noting the company’s own focus on user experience and product promise, adding that the partnership is a natural fit.

“And I think a testament to our growth and our maturity as a major streaming platform at this point,” Senzon said, adding it’s just the beginning for Local Now.

Local Now touts a hyper-local focus, delivering news, weather, sports, traffic and entertainment geo-targeted by zip code in more than 225 markets in the U.S. it offers more than 500 streaming channels including a Local Now channel in every DMA, alongside more than 20,000 movies, TV shows and documentaries. The Local Now app can be found on Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Xifinity, Vizio, Samsung, and Android and iOS devices.

And when it comes to local channels specifically, Senzon noted the platform counts up to 175 third-party local channels that are live (though in different phases of onboarding)  -  add to that the 225 unique Local Now-dedicated channels, as well as PBS, which is in the process of onboarding under an earlier deal, in about 300 markets. This takes Local Now’s local feeds to around 700.

“We believe we are the leader in local streaming anywhere,” he said.

And the company thinks its approach creates a marriage for station groups, be it the Big Four, affiliates, or private and public broadcast groups like Nexstar or Tegna (the latter two with which Local Now does not have any existing deals in place), Senzon noted.

“We’re curating it, in our investment in technology,” he said. “The way we operate our business every day is a laser focused on product, and user experience to make that localized environment easiest for users to have and have every channel that they know and love available to them.”

The CBS additions come as AMG-owner Byron Allen separately made a preliminary $10 billion offer to Disney for its ABC network and certain other linear assets.

Younger viewers still watching local TV

The bolstering of Local Now’s local news offering comes as a new Local TV report from analyst firm TVREV finds that, possibly counter to intuition, young people are still engaging with local programming  – and many are doing so on streaming. The report features a survey done with Publishers Clearing House that polled over 60,000 census-weighted respondents, aged 25 years and older about their local TV viewing habits and perceptions.

Although more than half (55%) of survey respondents aged 25-34 report never or hardly watching local TV, a notable 21% of the Millennial/Gen Z group watch local broadcast every day. An additional 14% watch a few times a week.  And younger viewers are turning to streaming, with two-thirds of Gen Z and Millennials streaming local news across various platforms. Still not everyone is on board for streaming, with 28% of 25-34 reporting they’d be very or fairly upset “if they could only find their local broadcast stations on streaming platforms, challenging conventional wisdom,” the report found.

Interestingly, viewers seem to care most about accurate weather from their local news broadcast. When picking which broadcast to watch accurate weather reporting was ranked as a top factor (32%), outpacing importance of likeability of anchors (23%) or sports coverage (11%).