The growing number of video channels is challenging advertisers to develop strategies to reach unduplicated audiences both at the national and local level. To stand out amid the clutter, those marketers also want a way to integrate their messaging with content that keeps viewers engaged.

Advertisers “want a package that includes branded content, content creation and sponsorship integration,” Jon Steinberg, president of Altice News and Advertising at Altice USA, said in this interview with Beet.TV. Altice’s media brands include Cheddar, regional news network News12 and i24 for international news.

Advertisers “want standard 15- and 30-second ads running on traditional linear television, and they want OTT,” Steinberg said, referring to over-the-top services that have become more popular in the past few years. “If they can run that against content that is thematically what they’re interested in and an audience that they’re interested in, it’s all the more exciting.”

Steinberg joined Altice last year when the company acquired Cheddar, a financial news network he co-founded to reach millennials who were connecting their TVs directly to the internet instead of subscribing to a cable or satellite TV service. The cord-cutting trend fueled a demand for OTT platforms that carried channels like Cheddar.

Surge in News Viewership

With many people stuck at home during the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Altice saw a surge in viewership as consumers sought the latest news about the health crisis. Unfortunately, the pandemic led advertisers to delay campaigns or cancel ones that were out of step with the public mood, dampening media spending during the second quarter. Altice experienced an almost 16% decline in ad sales during the period.

“That was relatively a victory if you look at a lot of our peers who were down 30% to 40%,” Steinberg said. “Just because we had spikes in viewership doesn’t necessarily mean we had spikes in advertising.”

Source: eMarketer

Altice’s monetization strategy includes selling traditional 15- and 30-second spots, working with New York Interconnect to sell inventory in the New York DMA, and branded integrations with marketers like Dunkin’, Chase and Allied Bank.

“News12 is one of the best-performing networks in the New York DMA,” Steinberg said. “That’s a powerful place for people to do local advertising.”

He said that advertisers have become more comfortable in placing ads amid news stories that are worrisome to viewers, such as updates on the pandemic. However, interest in COVID-19 has waned as people adjust to the new normal.

“COVID fatigue is a real thing. We definitely saw a fall-off in the amount of COVID coverage people wanted,” Steinberg said. “Advertisers by and large are comfortable with it. An informed public is what we’re all striving for.”

Politically Neutral News

While this year’s election season drew attention to the ideological differences among news outlets, Cheddar has remained neutral on those issues with its focus on what matters to businesspeople and investors.

Cheddar is “a business network focused on technology, media, innovation and entrepreneurship. It is most certainly non-partisan,” Steinberg said. “The only leaning you could say is that it’s probably pro-capitalism because we root for the entrepreneur. We root for the startup.”

Of course, Steinberg has an entrepreneurial background as a co-founder of Cheddar and his prior experience at digital publishing startup BuzzFeed. That experience informs his outlook for innovation in the media industry.

“The entrepreneur in the media space should build something of scale that does something unique in terms of content and advertising and a subscription product, and then ultimately needs to link up with a larger partner or larger parent to really take it to the next level,” he said. “If you try to do everything on your own, and reinvent the wheel for every single piece of  your business, it leads to an operating cost structure that’s not sustainable for a startup.”

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