WAFF, Gray’s NBC affiliate in Huntsville, Alabama, was the OTT MVP Award winner (OTTy Award for short) in May. The OTTy Award is given each month to the Gray Television team using their OTT desk in innovative ways.
WAFF, Gray’s NBC affiliate in Huntsville, Alabama, was Gray’s OTT MVP Award winner (OTTy Award for short) in May. The OTTy Award is given each month to the Gray Television team using their OTT desk in innovative ways.
Wade Smith, WAFF’s digital content manager, says the station is building OTT today because “we don’t know exactly what it will be in the future, we just know it is going to be the future.”
“What we are trying to do is build a younger audience,” says Julie Szulczewski, WAFF’s news director. “We are building the audience now, but we are really building it for the long-term future.”
Until then, a lot of viewers may not know “what OTT actually means or they kind of glaze over when you start using terms like that,” Smith says.
To combat the confusion, the station brands it during its broadcasts by saying “go to our streaming apps on Roku, Fire TV and Apple TV devices, and with technology, you can actually stream those things on your home TV,” Smith says.
Both Smith and Szulczewski say their OTT content allows WAFF to provide users with long-form, in-depth content on big stories.
Recently, WAFF had one of the biggest stories of the month — an escape from an Alabama prison. The story involved corrections official Vicky White and prisoner Casey White who left an Alabama detention center, sparking a nationwide search that lasted 11 days.
“We were picked up by so many stations and Gray became a national story,” says Charles Montgomery, WAFF’s digital reporter. “Not just in Gray markets, but also on CNN and many major news outlets throughout the country.”
Whenever there was new information, Montgomery provided showcased elements like live interviews with law enforcement, mug shots, surveillance video and news conferences.
WAFF’s OTT desk also provided content during election coverage, streaming wall-to-wall between newscasts from early in the morning until late at night with four reporters in the field.
“We had a ton of long-form interviews with candidates all from all over the state and all over our viewing area,” Smith says. “We were able to do 15- to 20-minute long-form interviews and you push people to that content every single day.”
WAFF uses push alerts to not only inform its apps users about its streaming offerings, but also to cross-pollinate to linear TV broadcasts.
“You could send a push alert that says tune in at 10 to find out the latest or to find out more, and definitely get results from that,” Smith says.
Those “recruit to view” alerts typically see the best returns leading into the 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts, Smith says.
WAFF uses its OTT desk to produce 48 Now digital shows, What’s Trending segments, Weather School interactive pieces and long-form interviews called 48 Now Chat.
“There is a job for everyone in the OTT realm, especially within Gray, because we need every skill set,” Smith says.
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