What You Can Learn From A Unicorn

Denver 7
(Image credit: Denver 7)

You might think unicorns are mythical creatures, but if you know where to look, you’re bound to find one. And after a recent virtual conference, I can guarantee you it’s well worth the effort.

A good place to start the search is at Denver7, the E.W. Scripps Company’s KMGH ABC-affiliate serving the Mile High City.

Dean Littleton, vice president and general manager of Denver7-KMGH, had a lot to say about unicorns during a weekly Zoom conference in mid-May put on by the Oconsortium. 

“…[W]e hired a number of what we refer to as ‘unicorns’,” said Littleton. “These are people who can run the presets on the [NewTek] TriCaster; they can be on camera, and they can write.”

While being “a tough position to hire for” in Littleton’s words, these unicorns are a critical part of the station’s larger OTT strategy, which has seen the launch of a streaming 24/7 local news channel that operates on the “news wheel” concept with frequent break-ins for live breaking news.

Littleton likens the unicorns to radio DJs who can run the board, go on-air and write their own stories—skills and a propensity towards flexibility not typically found in a single person. That makes finding these unicorns about as tough as tracking down the mythical creatures.

The unicorns at Denver7 are emblematic of the qualities broadcasters must possess to thrive during today’s seismic shifts in the media landscape. Like these unicorns, broadcasters must leverage existing skills in new and unique ways to meet today’s challenges. 

You need look no further than Denver7, which not only offers the 24/7 linear news channel as an OTT stream, but also a similarly structured 24/7 weather OTT channel, a linear OTT channel of Scripps-produced shows like “Court TV” and “Right This Minute” and another called the “Zen Stream,” featuring user-generated content. 

Then, for good measure the broadcaster re-spins all of the content from these linear OTT channels as VOD offerings.

Not only do the free ad-supported OTT channels generate revenue, but equally as important they track the changing habits of viewers, who in droves are subscribing to OTT services like Amazon Prime and Netflix.

It’s also worth noting the availability of the OTT channels strengthens the broadcaster’s OTA position. For instance, the OTT news channel feeds Denver7’s 1 p.m. newscast over the air, said Littleton.

Further, the availability of the stream means Littleton can spin up a new 24/7 OTA local news channel whenever needed or desired.

With IP-based NextGen TV rolling out around the nation—70-plus percent of the nation is expected to be covered by year’s end—it might make sense for other broadcasters to get serious about similar OTT streaming channels that can be easily simulcast over the air via 3.0 when available.

Learning a lesson or two from a unicorn might make it easier to find the pot of gold at the end of that rainbow.

Phil Kurz

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.