Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. announced the launch Wednesday of a free streaming TV service called STIRR that will include local and national channels and on-demand shows, a step the Hunt Valley-based TV station owner said would boost access to broadcast programming in a digital age.
The streaming app, seen as a way for the broadcaster to better compete with cable channels such as Fox News, will offer users access to national news, sports, movies and digital channels, a video-on-demand library and a new local channel featuring news and lifestyle programming based on a viewer’s location.
Reports of the venture first emerged last summer in a BuzzFeed report that cited sources familiar with the project and a trademark application.
“We are entering a new era of broadcast television and our number one priority at Sinclair is to help advance the industry and increase access to broadcast content in the midst of a digital age,” Sinclair CEO Christopher Ripley said. “With the launch of STIRR, we intend to offer audiences an easy, convenient and free way to watch live local and national channels, as well access a deep selection of on-demand programming.”
A promotional video for Stirr calls the app “a new way to watch TV, for free.”
At its launch, STIRR will have a lineup of 20 national networks, such as BUZZR, Charge, Comet, CONtv, Dove Channel, Futurism, MovieMix, NASA TV, Outdoor America, Pet Collective, The T (Tennis channel) and World Poker Tour. It also will start out with some original channels, among them STIRR Movies, STIRR Sports, STIRR Life and STIRR CITY, with plans to grow to more than 50 channels by the end of the year.
STIRR CITY, Sinclair’s new local channel, will show a round-the-clock lineup of shows based on where a viewer lives. Programs will include live local news, local and regional sports, entertainment and city-focused lifestyle programs produced by some of the 191 local TV stations that Sinclair owns, operates, manages or programs.
STIRR CITY also will feature a local on-demand library.
It will be a way for Sinclair’s broadcast stations to extend their programming to a streaming service and give the company a way to compete with the explosive growth of new, national steaming services, said Adam Ware, general manager of STIRR.
“Local TV station’s programming, especially local news, has remained some of the most popular and desired content to audiences and advertisers alike,” Ware said.
As pay-TV audiences decline, more media companies have looked to Internet streaming as the next frontier in broadcasting. Amazon, ESPN, Hulu and Netflix have launched pay services, and other offerings are coming from the likes of Disney and NBC Universal.
“Consumers more and more are looking for news on the go,” Tuna Amobi, CFRA Research senior analyst told The Sun in July when reports of plans for the service surfaced. “Mobile is going to be a big part of this motivation.”
He had said that if Sinclair ends up launching such a service, “it can be a differentiator for them, when you consider traditional TV viewership of news is in decline because consumers have more and more choices to access the news.”
The STIRR app was developed by Sinclair’s digital division, Sinclair Digital, based in Seattle.