Gray Senior Vice President of Digital Media, Mike Braun ironically told Broadcasting+Cable, “We really believe it’s really important for us to be on all screens and all devices.”
Gray has its own apps that stream its stations in local markets and no longer wants similar news aggregation apps to have its stations because it “could create some viewer confusion,” and it “helps if the market is not confused about where to find us.” However, Gray considers the Amazon Fire TV local news app a different ballgame deciding to keep its stations there.
Braun said that Gray’s contract with NewsON expires at the end of the year but “if the user base still does want us there, we’ll absolutely be open to a conversation,” he said. Gray currently has 95 out of 102 stations on NewsON, which include WVUE in New Orleans; WVLT-TV in Knoxville, Tennessee; and WOWT-TV in Omaha, Nebraska.
Sinclair, an investor in NewsON was unaware of Gray Television stations leaving the platform. The spokesperson said, “While we would be sorry to see the partnership with Gray end, their departure will not materially affect NewsON’s traffic or bottom line. We expect much of Gray’s local station viewing will be absorbed by competitors, as we have seen before.” NewsON’s lineup includes almost 300 stations owned by 16 various groups covering 165 markets.
NewsON launched in 2015 with support from founding members Cox Media Group, Hearst Television, Media General, Raycom Media, and ABC Owned Television Station Group. In 2016, Sinclair Broadcast Group started investing in the news service.
In March, Gray also cut ties with Haystack News, another streaming news company. Haystack News reported that despite Gray’s departure, the platform has continued to grow, adding dozens of stations owned by Nexstar Media as well as E.W. Scripps Co.
“We at Haystack value our past working relationship with Gray Television and respect the company’s decision to limit consumers’ access to its local news content to its owned platforms. Haystack would welcome back Gray content in the future, and we wish the team all the best,” said co-founder and CEO of Haystack TV, Daniel Barreto.
Gray is currently focusing on out-of-market streaming for VUit, a local news streaming platform launched last year by tech firm Syncbak. The company is in the process of acquiring Meredith Corp.’s local stations, which are on NewsON along with VUit, as of now.
Braun also touched upon VUit's additional stations coming to their platform, “We believe it’s just the beginning, and it’s going to continue to grow… The latest deals that they’ve made to bring on more local broadcasters really encourage us that we picked the correct platform.”
He added, “It’s fair to say that we want to build the audience base on VUit. There’s no secret we have an investment in. Why wouldn’t we believe in the product that we’ve invested in.”
Gray’s television stations cover about 24% of U.S. TV households and broadcast approximately 400 separate programming streams, which include almost 150 affiliates of the CBS/NBC/ABC/FOX networks. In addition, Gray Television owns Raycom Sports, Tupelo-Raycom, and RTM Studios.