The 24-hour live feeds will join those of 17 Fox-owned stations and Altice USA’s News 12 New York in a section of the streaming app called News on Tubi. National streaming outlets run by Fox, NBC, Bloomberg and others are also on the free, ad-supported platform.
Local stations now cover 58 U.S. markets, and 24 of the top 25. Among the new stations coming to Tubi over the next week are Fox affiliates WHBQ in Memphis and KOKI in Tulsa and four ABC affiliates: WEWS in Cleveland; WMUR in Manchester, NH; WTAE in Pittsburgh and WXYZ in Detroit.
Fox bought Tubi for $440 million in 2020. On the company’s quarterly earnings call with Wall Street analysts this week, Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch spoke at some length about Tubi, which he said would soon be a “billion-dollar business.” In fiscal 2021, Tubi is projected to post $300 million in revenue, about twice its level in 2020. As cord-cutting continues to hit the traditional TV business, streaming platforms are gaining importance for media companies. Nearly half of Tubi’s 33 million monthly active users do not have pay-TV subscriptions, according to Fox.
Murdoch described Tubi as “a key strategic platform for not only our digital expansion, but also our broader reimagining of Fox’s broadcast model for the future. In fact, I believe Tubi is an investment in what we internally call the ‘broadening of broadcast,’ meaning the Fox Network and Tubi combining seamlessly to create a modern, network-inspired business.”
The live news offering represents a shift for Tubi, which has long offered just on-demand film and TV titles, a different viewing experience than the live, linear-style ones of rivals like ViacomCBS-owned Pluto. Other players in ad-supported streaming, like Amazon Fire TV and Roku, have expanded their live, linear programming. NBCUniversal’s Peacock, which launched last year, features dozens of live channels, with a strategic emphasis on advertising revenue and active users, rather than subscribers.
For a host of industry and technical reasons, local TV stations have long struggled to get their signals from linear broadcast to streaming. Start-ups like Haystack News have managed to build businesses on aggregated, algorithmically delivered local programming. Some station owners, notably Sinclair Broadcast Group, are concentrating on building their own streaming ventures rather than licensing their feeds to third parties.