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TownNews.com expands into OTT with acquisition of Calkins Digital suite

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With the acquisition of Calkins Media’s over-the-top (OTT) and mobile app technology, TownNews.com now offers the video technology that enables newspapers and other media to provide branded channels on all major streaming platforms, including Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and iOS and Android mobile devices.

Calkins had been a newspaper industry pioneer in OTT, creating hundreds of hours of content—including more local news than broadcast channels in nearby Philadelphia—with deep audience engagement. Earlier this year, Calkins Digital reported that its average user was watching nine hours of OTT content a week.

TownNews.com renamed the OTT business BLOX OTT. Its best-known product is the BLOX Content Management System.

“Our content management ecosystem allows our partners to produce once, publish everywhere—be it web, mobile, social media, print, and more,” said Brad Ward, CEO of TownNews.com. “So BLOX OTT is a great fit. These apps give our customers easy access to a highly engaged, rapidly growing audience.”

Ward also announced that Susan Bell—who had been Digital Media’s director of client services and part of the team headed by Guy Tasaka that developed the OTT app suite—has joined TownNews.com as senior product manager of BLOX OTT products and services.
“Calkins Media could not have found a better home for its OTT technology and client base, and I’m thrilled to join the TownNews.com team,” Bell said. “I am proud to be a part of a company that had a vision to expand its offerings and help shake up the competitive technology landscape for broadcasters and publishers.”

TownNews.com’s BLOX OTT app suite enables the creation of custom streaming channels featuring a combination of live/linear television, video on demand (VOD), podcasts, and branded content. Customers can build revenue with pre-roll ads and programmatic advertising, and track progress with full analytics capabilities.

TownNews.com said its new OTT service is “not only a strategy for broadcasters to reach a new, growing audience — it’s also an opportunity for newspapers and digital pure-play companies to expand their product offerings.”

“Our mission at TownNews.com is to provide an all-in-one solution for all media companies to grow audience and open new revenue streams,” said Rick Rogers, vice president of sales at TownNews.com. “With our launch of BLOX OTT, we now provide another tool for our partners to do just that through dedicated and branded OTT channels and exciting new marketing opportunities such as branded native videos.”
Bell called the OTT app suite “the most innovative in the industry.”

“This move allows us to expand our customer support, roll out feature additions faster, and take on the next early adopter clients in the OTT space,” Bell added.

TownNews.com was founded in 1989 as the International Newspaper Network (INN) and is headquartered in Moline, Ill.