Elliott Wiser, Corporate VP of News and Local Programming, Bright House Networks
Creating success with blanket coverage on all platforms
By Michael Malone -- Broadcasting & Cable, 6/27/2011 12:01:00 AMClick here to read more Next Wave of Leaders
It’s been a torrid news season in Florida, and that’s just how Elliott Wiser, head of Bright House Networks’ lively cable news channels in Tampa and Orlando, likes it. The trial of Casey Anthony, charged with killing her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, kicked off May 24, and it rivals the O.J. Simpson trial in central Florida— and well beyond. Earlier this spring, President Obama and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords were in town to watch the Endeavor space shuttle take off with Giffords’ husband on board. In July, the shuttle Atlantis is to lift off from Cape Canaveral.
Broadcast rivals in Orlando increasingly went wall-towall on the Anthony trial, but the Bright House networks have been there from Day One. Wiser, a former CNN Headline News reporter and producer, says Tampa’s Bay News 9 and Orlando’s News 13 are way more than cable channels these days. The outlets blanket their markets with rich on-demand programming, tireless Web coverage (cfnews13.com took a 2011 Murrow award for best regional Website) and a robust social media strategy, including Twitter dispatches from the Anthony trial courtroom (nearly 6,000 tweets by Day 14), and a dedicated Casey Anthony News page on Facebook.
Wiser says being a 24/7 news channel is no longer enough. “We are hitting on all platforms,” he says. “These are more than 24-hour news channels.”
To figure out how to own news on the various platforms, Wiser assembled what he calls the “Pandora” task force, which spent 2010 brainstorming the newsroom of the future. He began implementing its findings in Tampa earlier this year, and will do so in Orlando once the Anthony madness winds down.
Besides enhanced Web and social media strategies, the group came up with “Big Boards” in the newsroom to show what everyone’s working on and eliminate redundancy, and a Bat Phone-like “squawk box” that allows anyone in the various newsrooms—Bay News 9, News 13, Bright House Sports Network, the En Espanol channels—to hit a button and share breaking news with the entire network.
“Things happen quicker and quicker,” Wiser says. “You’ve got to have a communication process in place that addresses that.”
Wiser effectively wrote the book on local cable news. Part of the launch team for channels in Seattle and Tampa, and the architect of Time Warner Cable’s channels in Charlotte, N.C.; Albany, N.Y.; and Houston, Wiser’s 2008 Masters thesis was “The Early History of 24-Hour Local News Channels.” He touched it up recently so the RTDNA could publish the landmark study online. “I’m glad that it’s over and I’m done with it,” Wiser says with a laugh. “I am ready for something new.”
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