NAB Show: Local Now a Key Piece of Weather Channel Acquisition, Said Byron Allen

The winning streaming service will have local content, he believes.
by Michael Malone

The NAB panel “Byron Allen: Playing to Win in the Digital Revolution” put media player Allen up on stage in Vegas. Allen recently marked a year as owner of The Weather Channel, and spoke excitedly of a virtual throw-in in the deal, streaming news service Local Now. With more big players entering the streaming game, he said one with a strong local component will win.

“Local Now is an unstoppable beast,” he said.

Allen described his childhood in Detroit, his father working for Ford, and the family relocating to Los Angeles after the Detroit riots. His mother got work as a tour guide at NBC, and Allen would frequently accompany her. “I witnessed the making of television,” he said.

Allen embarked on a standup career, taking the stage at The Comedy Store when he was 14, and co-hosting Real People years later.

He later learned more about the television business from Al Masini, creator of Entertainment Tonight. “He taught me to create and sell TV shows,” said Allen.

Allen acquired The Weather Channel from Blackstone Group, Bain Capital and Comcast just over a year ago for $310 million. He said Local Now, which streams local news, weather, sports and traffic to subscribers for free, was part of the deal, and hardly on his radar screen when the deal closed.

Allen is mighty bullish on Local News these days. “We just passed our one billionth viewed minute on a streaming service no one knows about,” he said.

Expect Local Now to be in the running for an NFL package a few years down the road, Allen said. “Game over,” he said if Local Now lands football.

The big streaming services don’t pay much, if any, attention to local content. Allen said that’s a mistake. “No one is going to win the streaming war without localization,” said Allen.

Local content, he added, “is part of your instinctive survival mechanism.”

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