Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. will launch a first-of-its kind, over-the-air TV network showing digital programming that appeals to millennial audiences.
Sinclair's TBD network will be available in millions of U.S. homes, featuring web series, short films, fashion, comedy, lifestyle, eSports, music and viral content, the Hunt Valley-broadcaster said Wednesday.
TBD will launch in early 2017 on digital sub channels across Sinclair's platform, though specific markets were not announced. Sinclair is the nation's largest owner/operator of TV stations.
Online video culture, popular with young viewers, has only sporadically been used on mainstream television, the broadcaster said. The digital industry has grown over the last few years, spurring creation and distribution of original content such as short films, extreme sports and web series. Sinclair and its partners are aiming to create a TV destination for the best of that content, targeted at viewers who have grown up with online video as entertainment.
"It's very different from what's currently available in that [over-the-air] market," said Scott Shapiro, Sinclair's vice president of corporate development. Most other sub channels rely on running classic TV shows that cater to older generations.
Sinclair's approach will be "screen agnostic," Shapiro said, meaning viewers are not restricted by device and can watch the network online or on TV, similar to its Comet science fiction network.
"Younger people still watch TV, they just do it differently than their parents did," Shapiro said. "We want to meet viewers wherever they want to view content."
Before Sinclair had a name for its new network, Shapiro dubbed it TBD, for "to be determined." Then the company realized it happened to own the rights to tbd.com, and that that the name fit the concept of keeping viewers wondering what's next.
The QYOU, a curator of online video for television, will program the network, licensing and packaging online content for traditional television. Sinclair and QYOU will work with the programs' creators, such as Jukin Media, Legendary Digital Networks (Nerdist & Geek and Sundry), Whistle Sports, Kinonation, Zoomin' and Canvas Media Studios.
"TBD sets out a different model, showing it's possible to meet the needs of this generation by delivering the type of content they connect with in a way that's easy to consume on the range of devices that make up their multiscreen world." said Scott Ehrlich, QYOU's co-founder and CEO.
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Ehrlich started QYOU in 2014 to curate Internet videos for the paid TV market and expanded into producing programming.
"With TBD, the company is moving for the first time into an advertising-supported channel broadcast over the air," he said.
Content creator partners say digital-first content that can make the jump to TV represents a huge opportunity.
"We have millions of fans who've been engaging with us daily on web and mobile, and want to see even more from us on the biggest screen in the house," said John West, CEO of Whistle Sports, in the announcement. "We're thrilled to be able to deliver a new Whistle Sports experience combining the digital videos fans love with new original storytelling on Sinclair's new channel."
Cameron Saless, chief growth officer at Jukin Media, said many young viewers have become fans of the company's online content.
"We believe TBD is a new exciting opportunity for our programming to continue to reach this important audience," Saless said.