Former TV News Stars Are Finding a Second Life Online

Will audiences and advertisers follow?

Far from hearing crickets after streaming into the Internet abyss, former TV news talent are unearthing a flourishing market online.

In mid-March, Katie Couric interviewed former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the former CBS Evening News anchor’s first assignment as global news anchor for Yahoo.

And Cenk Uygur’s The Young Turks Network last week introduced a 30-minute version of its live YouTube newscast and a weekly entertainment program called Pop Trigger on Hulu and Hulu Plus.

It’s the first deal the liberal-leaning outfit inked since being canceled by Current TV after its sale to Al Jazeera last summer.

Its new digital home is prime turf for TYT’s 18-34 demo.

“Our flagship show is already bigger online,” Uygur said. “Why would I need to go back into the format where I would get less views?”

Online news outlets know that longevity and shareability beat breaking news. That can include stretching a viral video into an entire segment.

“It’s not just who watches that night—it’s have you created a show or a good segment that people are going to watch over time?” said Jon Housman, CEO of Ora.TV, the home of Larry King Now.

An added benefit: It is ridiculously cheap to produce, as Forrester Research vp James McQuivey pointed out.

While TV news operations sweat cash sending reporters to Afghanistan, Web news sites can do video chats with interviewees for a fraction of the cost.

Their success online doesn’t mean that if given the chance, online news anchors wouldn’t come crawling back to television. Even as he promises to never abandon his online followers, even Uygur isn’t fully closing the book on cable.

This, even though the disparity in the online versus TV audience is staggering. TYT’s flagship show averages 25,000 viewers per stream, per the network. Compare that to the 770,000 daily viewers Uygur got in his 6 p.m. nightly slot on MSNBC.

Similarly, before he left Fox News, Glenn Beck got 1.76 million viewers in Q2 of 2011. He traded that for 312,500 average monthly unique video views on, according to comScore.

The jury is still out on whether Couric’s Yahoo venture will justify her reported $6 million paycheck.

Despite the promising audience numbers, online ad dollars still lag broadcast, notes Ken Doctor, Outsell media analyst, who pointed out that top video brands online pull in $50 to $80 per 1,000 views.

Doctor said video ads fetch three to four times what text ads can garner.

Once someone figures out how to quantify how much attention people are paying online, he believes that these ads will be sold at a premium.

“Video advertising is the kind of digital advertising that is holding up in the market,” Doctor said. “Video advertising is one area that has more demand than supply.”