STATION TO STATION
ABC affiliate WFAA Dallas is about to give viewers a closer look at
local news. The Belo Corp.-owned station is building a street-side studio next
to the American Airlines Arena in downtown Dallas as part of a development
called Victory Plaza. The area will also feature the trendy W Hotel and upscale
shops and restaurants.
Plans call for WFAA to have ground-floor space with floor-to-ceiling
windows and large video screens in the plaza carrying its newscasts. Some
newscasts, most likely morning shows, will originate from the studio, which is
slated to open in 2006. The space could also host sports and entertainment
specials tied to events at the arena, such as Dallas Mavericks basketball
WFAA's 5,000-square-foot facility is among several street-side
studios popping up across the country. In Salt Lake City, CBS-owned KUTV
recently opened a windowed studio downtown, and Chicago will soon boast three.
WMAQ, the NBC owned-and-operated station, has a Today-like facility, and ABC O&O WLS and CBS-owned
WBBM are building their own. WLS plans to move all newscasts to a new
8,000-square-foot space next fall, and WBBM is relocating its entire operation
to a new building on downtown Daly Plaza by the end of 2007.
“It will bring us closer to the viewers,” says WLS
President/General Manager Emily Barr.
But at a cost. While no execs would give specific price tags, the
studios typically cost $2 million to $5 million to build, and some might run as
much as $10 million.
WFAA isn't giving up its current digs. The station shares a facility
with sister newspaper The Dallas Morning News in a
less-trafficked part of downtown. Like Barr, Kathy Clements, WFFA's
president/general manager, says the new studio will bring the station closer to
viewers. “We can talk to viewers, interact with them and turn the cameras on
them,” she says. “They can watch the making of local TV.”
Of course, a live audience creates security concerns, whether it's a
streaker or someone with a profane sign getting on live TV, particularly given
the heightened concern about indecency and possible fines from the FCC.
Clements says WFAA will employ guards to keep an eye on the crowds and use
overhead cameras to film them from a distance when necessary.
Atlanta residents can now take their news to go through a new mobile
news service from CBS affiliate WGCL. The free service, billed CBS46ToGo.com,
features news, weather, sports, finance and movie headlines, and can be
downloaded to any cellphone or PDA with Internet capability.
Meredith-owned WGCL Atlanta is the first outlet in the 13-station
group to roll out a mobile product. Its sister stations are studying WGCL's
experience and may soon follow suit.
Across town, Gannett station WXIA delivers more-limited news to PDAs.
Its free 11 Alive News features news, sports, weather and money headlines but
works only on Windows CE-enabled devices.
So far, response to WGCL's news-to-go has been strong, says
VP/General Manager Andy Alford. More than 10,000 users tried the system on its
inaugural day July 25.
Local automobile dealer Tim Stewart Ford has signed on as a sponsor,
and Alford says the station is courting other advertisers to buy sections, such
as movie listings: “This is a great opportunity for us to expand our news
product and create additional opportunities for our viewers and
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