How Didja is accelerating its local TV streaming expansion

CEO Jim Long says the startup is using digital 'beachheads' to gain initial footholds in various US markets, with plans to follow with deployments of antenna sites that can stream out larger channel lineups.

Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor

January 24, 2022

7 Min Read
How Didja is accelerating its local TV streaming expansion

After launching its local TV streaming service in beta form in a handful of US markets in recent years, Didja is now in rapid ramp-up mode.

The startup, which targets US markets with its "LocalBTV" streaming app, announced last week that it is now operational in 21 US DMAs (designated market areas), estimating that it provides coverage to about 50% of US households. Didja intends to expand to upwards of 100 markets by the end of 2022.

Following beta launches in Phoenix (PhoenixBTV), the Bay Area (BayAreaBTV), Southern California (SoCalBTV), San Diego (San Diego BTV), Philadelphia (PhillyBTV) and New York (NYCBTV), Didja has extended its reach to the following markets:

Atlanta (AtlantaBTV)

Bakersfield, California (BakersfieldBTV)

Biloxi, Mississippi (BiloxiBTV)

Chicago (ChicagoBTV)

Cincinnati (CincinnatiBTV)

Fresno, California (FresnoBTV)

Houston (HoustonBTV)

Indianapolis, Indiana (IndyBTV)

Las Vegas, Nevada (Las VegasBTV)

Louisville, Kentucky (LouisvilleBTV)

Monterey, California (MontereyBTV)

Nashville, Tennessee (NashvilleBTV)

Palm Beach, California (PalmBeachBTV)

Reno, Nevada (RenoBTV)

Didja aims to succeed where the likes of Aereo, Locast and even Ivi Inc. have failed. Didja's core offer is to provide free, streaming access to local broadcast TV channels (along with a cloud DVR) on several platforms. Didja's current list of supported platforms includes Roku players and TVs, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV and Apple TV devices, web browsers and iOS and Android phones and tablets. It expects to expand to Samsung and Vizio smart TV platforms soon.

But rather than merely capturing free, over-the-air signals and streaming them out for free to viewers, Didja has taken the additional and important step of striking distribution deals with the broadcasters themselves. The general pitch is to partner with broadcasters and provide them with an additive streaming audience backed by an advertising model.

Figure 2: Didja CEO Jim Long 'We're sending checks to stations. It's a modest start,' Long said. (Source: Didja) "We're sending checks to stations. It's a modest start," Long said.
(Source: Didja)

While Didja has had some success securing distribution deals for a wide range of digital, over-the-air networks such as Cozi TV, KPOP and EstrellaTV, it so far has not been able to lock in deals with the Big Four: ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC (more on that later).

Jim Long, Didja's CEO, said the service is now "feature-complete," particularly in areas such as advertising, and expects to soon exit the beta phase. "Now we can grow and deliver to potential channel partners and station group partners all of the functionality we want to," he said.

'Beachheads' providing rapid market entry

But how has Didja been able to suddenly pick up the deployment pace? Long said market expansions have been aided by a decision to enter some markets with digital "beachheads" that support smaller channel lineups. Those beachheads are delivering a subset of channels using station IP feeds as Didja makes plans to follow up with antenna sites (backed by its edge video network, where the transcoding is done) that support a fuller slate of channels.

"We figured a way to expand with a lighter footprint," Long said. "It's easy and fast and low cost, but limits the numbers we can start with."

Figure 1:  Didja intends to offer its 'LocalBTV' streaming app in upwards of 100 US markets by the end of 2022. Pictured is a version of the app for the Phoenix, Arizona, market. (Source: Didja) Didja intends to offer its 'LocalBTV' streaming app in upwards of 100 US markets by the end of 2022. Pictured is a version of the app for the Phoenix, Arizona, market.
(Source: Didja)

For example, Cincinnati, one of those beachheads, launched with a lineup of 15 channels. The Bay Area, a market supported by an antenna site, delivers a lineup of more than 60 channels.

While redistributing channels using the station's IP feed enables Didja to quickly seed new markets, the plan is to use antennas as the primary way to capture signals because they are lower cost and highly reliable, Long explained.

Meanwhile, Didja's beachhead markets tend to feature a station that has pulled the company into the market – areas where Didja has, as Long puts it, "a friend in town."

He says Didja has another 20 markets already lined up with a "Fortune 500 partner," but acknowledges that the timing is running behind schedule due to chip shortages caused by a supply chain crisis that's being felt across most industries.

Those issues aside, Didja does see a path to reach another 80-plus markets by the end of this year, Long says. He expects about half of those markets to start out as beachheads and the other half to boot up with Didja's full antenna/video edge network infrastructure.

Funding and revenues

But Didja is also looking for more funding to fuel expansion plans. It will need more people as well as data centers, equipment and access to bandwidth and streaming capacity. It's also seeking funds to promote and market the service more aggressively.

Didja's angel/seed investors have provided enough to stay ahead of the anticipated burn rate, but Long anticipates that more cash will be needed, likely in the form of an "A" round that could come together later this year.

Didja isn't talking about how much it intends to raise, but the plan is to involve institutional investors, media companies, station groups, infrastructure companies or perhaps private equity. "It's not going to be venture capital because we don't do flying cars," Long joked.

Meanwhile, Didja is starting to generate revenues. "We're sending checks to stations. It's a modest start," Long said.

Didja tracks metrics such as registrations and monthly active users. It's not supplying that data publicly, but it provides it to station partners, holding that the data Didja supplies to broadcast partners is far greater than what stations get from consumer antenna usage alone. Long estimates that viewership on Didja's local streaming platform is up about 4x in most markets compared to what was seen prior to the pandemic.

Didja has made slow, steady progress trying to get the Big 4 (ABC, Fox, CBS and NBC), but no deals appear imminent as most continue to combat cord-cutting with carriage on virtual multichannel video programming distributors (vMVPDs) or focus on their own streaming initiatives.

One such example is Stirr, Sinclair Broadcast Group's ad-supported video streaming service. NBCU, meanwhile, has been laser-focused on Peacock, its direct-to-consumer premium streaming service. CBS has ties to Paramount+.

Long says Didja has been able to drum up interest with a couple of major networks, but none of them were inclined to be first out of the chute – they wanted more major broadcasters to be in the mix.

"The cracks are evident in the dam," he said, believing "it's only a matter of time" before they give it a shot. "There's a giant market that would pay retrans [fees]," he said.

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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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