Fox, NBC Stations Seek Pool Partners

Nov 16, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Fox Television Stations and NBC Local Media are confident they’re building the local TV news equivalent of a better mousetrap—and they’re inviting any and all other local media outlets to reap the benefits.
In markets where both own TV stations, starting in Philadelphia in January, the two groups plan to create an entity tentatively called Local News Service that will function as something between the Associated Press and the video news pools formed to cover major events.
The AP creates an editorial product that it feeds to member news organizations; a pool feeds video to its members.
LNS video crews will cover newsworthy general-market stories—press conferences and the like—and the editorial power of how to use the video will remain with the individual stations.
While many details are yet to be worked out, LNS in each market will employ a team of six assignment editors led by an independent managing editor who will not be stationed in either newsroom. Each station will commit six camera crews (who will continue to be employees of their respective stations) to LNS. The managing editor and his team will notify the stations each day of the stories LNS plans to cover.
A test of everything from the use of ground and helicopter crews to how best to communicate was conducted last summer by Fox-owned WTXF-TV and NBC-owned WCAU-TV in Philadelphia and was “incredibly successful,” NBC Local Media President John Wallace said.
The LNS video will be made available (for fees yet to be determined) to other local TV and radio broadcasters, newspapers and digital platforms.
Fox Television Stations CEO Jack Abernethy said there was interest in the LNS offerings from other outlets in the Philadelphia market.
“I would say that the interest is strong and that we are looking forward to discussions with virtually every station group in the country,” Mr. Abernethy said.
The service is scheduled to roll out later in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Dallas and Washington, D.C., each a market in which Fox owns and operates two stations and NBC owns and operates an English-language station. Discussions about a timetable are scheduled for next week.
Among the details still unclear is participation by Telemundo stations in the LNS markets.
“We will endeavor to bring them into the fold as well,” Mr. Wallace said. “That will all kind of evolve over the next few months.”
The LNS concept is less about saving money than it is about deploying it wisely by minimizing the stations’ overlapping coverage of stories that must be represented in newscasts but that will not distinguish one newscast from another.
“It’s a tough time in our business, as you know. It’s a tough time in everybody’s business,” Mr. Abernethy said. “This is an opportunity to actually do things better and be a little more smart about things, as opposed to the more gloomy things that people are looking at. People find that exciting.”
Mr. Abernethy said the Philadelphia test proved “there was more content coming in the door and it also gave those folks at the stations [more freedom to] cover those enterprise stories that are most important to the voice of that station. From that perspective, I think it heightens the competitive nature of the market and the quality of the broadcast they are putting out.”

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