Haystack News moves streaming needle as consumers flock to local news

Usage of the hyper-local streaming news service was climbing before the pandemic, but the recent surge of big news events has 'propelled us forward,' CEO Daniel Barreto says.

Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor

June 19, 2020

5 Min Read
Haystack News moves streaming needle as consumers flock to local news

Streaming services have been surging during the pandemic as consumers entertain themselves at home. And a combination of the pandemic and recent civil unrest has also caused people to flock to TV news, with an big emphasis on local news, in recent weeks.

Although usage was already rising before COVID-19 hit the US in a big way, Haystack News said it has seen a sharp usage increase for a free, ad-based VoD streaming service that delivers a customized collection of news reports in partnership with nearly 300 local broadcasters and an array of national and international sources of TV news.

Recent major news events "have propelled us forward," Haystack CEO and co-founder Daniel Barreto said.

When setting up the service, Haystack News users have the ability to customize and localize what news (down to specific topics) and weather information is assembled into the curated, on-screen view.

Figure 1: Haystack News CEO and Co-Founder Daniel Barreto. The company was founded in 2013. Haystack News CEO and Co-Founder Daniel Barreto. The company was founded in 2013.

Haystack News (a service formerly known as Haystack TV prior to a recent rebrand that plays up the service's focus on news as a differentiator from other free, AVoD services) released its first batch of user and usage data this month, announcing that its overall user base surged 145% in May 2020 versus May 2019, with a 2019 baseline in the "millions." The streamer also says it's on track in 2020 to double its annual growth in consumption and at least match the increases it has been generating in each of the past four years.

Barreto also attributes Haystack TV's general growth patterns to the ongoing rise of cord-cutting as consumers drop traditional pay-TV services and rely on broadband-delivered streaming services for entertainment and news.

At the same time, Haystack News is also exploring other ways to distribute its app, including discussions on how to gain entry onto Xfinity Flex, a relatively new streaming/smart home service that Comcast is offering for no additional cost to its broadband-only customers.

Haystack News' business model centers on advertising revenues and revenue sharing with its broadcast TV partners. For those broadcasters, Haystack News represents new ad inventory and a way to augment their TV audiences, Barreto said.

Broadcast Station Partners

US/Global News Partners

Supported Streaming Platforms

ABC-owned TV stations

ABC News

Amazon Fire TV

CBS TV stations

Associated Press

Android TV

Cox Media Group

Bloomberg

Apple TV

Gray Television

CBS News

Roku players and Roku TVs

Hearst Television

Cheddar

Hisense smart TVs

Hubbard Broadcasting

CNET

LG smart TVs

Meredith Corp.

Euronews

Samsung smart TVs

Scripps

Gamespot

Sony smart TVs

Newsy

TCL smart TVs

Yahoo Finance

Vizio smart TVs

Android and iOS mobile devices

Web browsers (www.haystack.tv)

Barreto acknowledges that it took some serious work to get those content deals salted away, as Haystack News was required to negotiate agreements with a multitude of individual stations as well as various station groups.

But Haystack's move into that market was also aided by its association with the National Association of Broadcasters, as the streaming service participated in an NAB-run "Pilot" program. Receiving that "stamp of approval" from the industry played a big part in getting Haystack News engaged with the local broadcast news community, Barreto said.

Figure 2: Haystack TV's app enables users to build and customize a lineup of national and local news sources as well as individual topics of interest. Haystack TV's app enables users to build and customize a lineup of national and local news sources as well as individual topics of interest.

Barreto said Haystack News' biggest challenge ahead is to continue to differentiate and stand out from other free streaming sources of news. Of recent note, Haystack News added a customizable, interactive news ticker for its Roku app called "Newsline," and expects to extend that feature to its other streaming platforms later this year.

Haystack News is also coming off a recent funding raise that extended its total to about $6.5 million, with the NAB among its financial backers. Barreto said that money has been earmarked for R&D and product enhancements and to expand on partnership and marketing efforts.

"We're in the investment phase," he said.

Founded in 2013, Haystack was incubated at Stanford University's StartX accelerator program (the StartX Fund is also an investor). Haystack has about 20 full-time employees.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Jeff Baumgartner

Senior Editor, Light Reading

Jeff Baumgartner is a Senior Editor for Light Reading and is responsible for the day-to-day news coverage and analysis of the cable and video sectors. Follow him on X and LinkedIn.

Baumgartner also served as Site Editor for Light Reading Cable from 2007-2013. In between his two stints at Light Reading, he led tech coverage for Multichannel News and was a regular contributor to Broadcasting + Cable. Baumgartner was named to the 2018 class of the Cable TV Pioneers.

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