Local TV

Raycom Repurposing With a Purpose

Will create national show from local news clips as group moves away from Oprah and Dr. Phil 9/27/2010 04:23:00 AM Eastern

Raycom will unveil a significant investment in its local offerings
next month when it debuts the homespun America Now show
on all of its 47 stations. Offering a best-of roundup from the group’s
news-producing stations focusing on human interest, lifestyle and health,
America Now is designed to replace some of the syndication giants on the
Raycom stations—and free up much of the license fees tied to those shows.

America Now will debut as a weekend program
and will likely play a larger role next year, leading
in or out of news during the week. The hour-long
show debuts in late October and will initially feature
52 weekly episodes.

Raycom’s news stations produce some 975
hours of content a week, according to President/CEO Paul McTear, and America Now is an efficient way to make the most of the best video. “For
years, we toyed with the idea of what to do with
this stuff,” McTear says, “and how we could put
it to use across a wider platform.”

America Now is hosted by Bill Rancic, who won
the first edition of The Apprentice, and is a co-production
with Los Angeles outfit ITV Studios. Mc-
Tear says the show will be around 75% Raycom
programming, with the remainder coming from
ITV—including a panel of experts talking about
pets, cars, finance and other wide-appeal topics.

NBC Local Media’s The Daily Connection features a similar model, greatest-
clips shows packaged from NBC’s myriad networks. That show airs on
WRC Washington, WNBC New York and KNBC Los Angeles.

McTear and Raycom VP of News Susana Schuler describe America Now
as fun, informational, timely, topical, down-to-earth and useful, with the
homey content of the old PM Magazine series and the splashy look and feel
of Entertainment Tonight. “I know it’s a trite saying, but it’s ‘news you can
use,’” McTear adds.

No sponsors were yet on board at presstime, and McTear says branded
integration is on the table—although such opportunities would reside in the
ITV-spawned portions of the show, not those from Raycom’s newsrooms.

McTear says Raycom made a conscious decision to cut back on syndication
expenses for next year. That The Oprah Winfrey Show is departing
broadcast TV helped free up much of those costs, and the group also decided
not to renew Dr. Phil. Couple last year’s dismal economy with the loss of what McTear calls “two heritage shows,” and Raycom was compelled to
whiteboard a whole new concept.

The Raycom brain trust was initially nervous about heading to Hollywood
to brainstorm the project, but appreciated that the ITV execs, including CEO
Paul Buccieri, a former Fox exec, and Dana Millikin, who has produced at
KTTV Los Angeles and KPRC Houston, among others, knew the local TV
world. “It helped that we knew we were working
with someone from our side of the business,” says
McTear of Millikin, who is the showrunner.

Raycom owns and/or operates 47 stations in
36 markets, including WAVE Louisville, WOIO
Cleveland and WBTV Charlotte, and has a strong
Southeastern U.S. presence. Making such a venture
possible is BitCentral’s Oasis system, which
stores edited packages on local servers and lets
them be browsed through a Web-based interface.
The setup links Raycom’s newsrooms, enabling
them to share content when there’s a topic of regional
interest, such as a hurricane.

Back in June, when all of America was fixated
on the BP oil spill in the Gulf Coast, five Raycom
stations in the region joined forces to produce the
hour-long live special Coastal Crisis: Impact Alabama.
“We utilize technology to share hyper-local
regional coverage every day,” Schuler says.

Raycom’s executives are curious to see if the show will appeal to stations
beyond its own group. Buccieri hinted at a syndicated model in a statement
when he mentioned “working with Raycom under a new model which allows
us to produce compelling programming for Raycom, but which we
believe also has appeal for wider local audiences.”

Raycom’s general managers are excited to see how America Now fares on
their air. “We’re one of the stations where the show will be seen by a lot of
viewers,” says WWBT Richmond Regional VP/General Manager Don Richards.
“We’re going to get behind it.”

McTear knows he has a lot on the line with America Now. “We’ve discussed
this kind of program for years,” he says, “but never had the courage
to step forward.”

E-mail comments to mmalone@nbmedia.com
and follow him on Twitter: @StationBiz

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