‘NOVA News Minutes’ coming to ABC affils

May 13, 2002  •  Post A Comment

“NOVA,” PBS’s award-winning documentary series, will bring its groundbreaking science and technology content to ABC through “NOVA News Minutes.” The stories will be distributed through ABC’s NewsOne Service to approximately 200 local ABC affiliates nationwide.
The first of the short features debuted in late April and gave an engineering perspective to the collapse of the World Trade Center towers. Subsequent productions will coincide with each week’s “NOVA” broadcast and cover environmental, technological and genetic issues, such as the ever-increasing number of ways to make a baby, how tobacco affects the body and the latest research on how the universe is expanding.
Though “NOVA” has a large and loyal audience of more than 6 million viewers, the demographics of that audience are almost opposite those of the local ABC newscast audience. “NOVA News Minutes” has the potential to capture millions more viewers and expand “NOVA’s” own audience base.
For ABC affiliates, the syndicated content provides a way to set their newscasts apart. “When you have all of this shared material out there these days, there can be a certain sameness to newscasts,” said Rose Ann Shannon, news director at KETV, Omaha, Neb. “News directors and producers are looking for something different to distinguish their newscast from the competition, and I think something like this might be that something different.”
“NOVA News Minutes” are produced by New York-based ScienCentral, which was recently awarded a $2.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop the project. For six years, ScienCentral has been producing science and technology content for ABC and others and has become adept at making complex information understandable for diverse audiences and easy to use for affiliates. “We’ve been producing these pieces for a few years and have refined how to make it as easy as possible for local [stations] to integrate it into their newscasts,” said Dr. Eliene Augenbraun, CEO and president of the company.
The weekly news packages include an anchor intro and outro. Stations can choose to use a voice-over track or have their news anchor or correspondent re-voice the script.
Stories are uplinked on Fridays via analog satellite and ABC’s Pathfire digital system. Affiliates have a four-day exclusive window to air the segments. After that, the features will be used on the PBS.org Web site and may be available for air in other places.
“One of the reasons local news directors said they like our science pieces is that it gives them a lot of flexibility,” said Dr. Augenbraun. “It’s new, interesting and quirky stuff, and yet they have enough flexibility to integrate it into the newscast. It could be today, it could be tomorrow.”
While it’s too soon to know how many affiliates will use the segments, Dr. Augenbraun said they have received good initial feedback. KETV’s Ms. Shannon said she was interested because stations in medium-size and smaller markets often have limited access to science and technology news. At the same time, it’s something her viewers want to see. “I think particularly younger viewers are interested in it, and you’re always looking for something that entices them to watch a newscast,” she said.
“It’s like any other news beat,” said Dr. Augenbraun. “News happens every day, and these features speak to those important issues. We’re debating whether to clone ourselves. We have new satellites that let us read newspapers from space, with huge implications for our privacy. These are the things that fascinate people.”