A high school football broadcast on Iowa's KCRG, as seen on VUit.

Streaming service VUit has an interesting model, providing live, free, ad-supported streams of local broadcast networks around the country. This has sometimes included dives into sports, including the Iditarod (on Alaska station KTUU), many local high school games, and the ACCDN Confidential digital channel they launched in partnership with Raycom Sports and the conference back in April (and expanded to basketball in June). And, as per VUit’s year-end recap release sent out Tuesday, sports was one of their strongest categories this year by viewership (behind only extreme weather and climate-related stories), especially with high school sports. Here’s more on that from the release:

Weather and climate-related stories and high school sports are the leading drivers of out-of-market viewers to local streaming newscasts in 2021 according to data released by VUit (pronounced “view it”), a free, ad-supported national streaming service aiming to be the “Netflix of Live, Local, and free.” The platform, which carries more than 200 local station newscasts covering 83% of the nation’s DMAs, has seen its viewership minutes triple in the past year, as viewers have turned to the platform with an increased appetite for a true local lens and perspective into major news and cultural events of interest to them outside of their current hometown.

According to VUit’s 2021 year end data, news stories about the weather and climate-related events were the biggest drivers for viewers to stream local newscasts on its platform this year. Seven of the top nine most watched news events on VUit were weather related with Hurricane Ida driving the largest lift of any specific weather event to local station newscasts, followed by the multi-state tornado event December 10th, with other winter storms, and West Coast fires also being of great interest to viewers to tune into newsstreams outside of their current hometown.

Beyond hard news, high school sports and high school graduations streamed on VUit were highly appealing to audiences across the country. For example, WYMT-TV in Kentucky attracted viewers from close to 60 markets for their broadcast of high school sports events.

Some of the particularly notable sports events from perspectives of viewership and out-of-market viewers included high school boys’ and girls’ basketball (March 22, 23, 26 and 27 on WYMT), a Michigan all-star high school softball game (July 14 on WWTV), the Onaway Speedway Steer the World 100 (July 10th on WWTV), Iowa high school football coverage (seen at top, this fall on KCRG) and the Iditarod (March 7-15 on KTUU). The Iditarod reached viewers in 178 markets, while WYMT’s basketball coverage reached viewers in 59 markets and WWTV’s Michigan all-star softball coverage reached viewers in 58 markets.

It’s also notable how VUit saw minutes viewed triple this year, and sports seems to have had a lot to do with that. Beyond the success of the local sports events, the ACCDN launch and expansion also went well for them, with Syncbak (VUit’s parent company) CEO Jack Perry telling AA in June that ACCDN reached viewers in 195 markets in May and was their most-watched channel that month. And he said then that it played into their larger approach of getting viewers tuned into local stations, saying “ACCDN Confidential brought new users to the VUit platforms and our local broadcast partners had content to keep the viewers there. Viewers come back 18 or so times per month.” At that point, too, Perry talked about big plans for expanding live sports event numbers on VUit in 2022:

“Our live local sports focus brings us viewers from all over the country to see content from other markets. We might have 10,000 live, local and exclusive events next year and that will bring a whole new base of viewers.”

We’ll see how VUit does on reaching that number of events. But the sports focus was certainly a strong part of their success in 2021.

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz is a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He previously worked at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.