Stations Practicing the Politics of Sharing

Live mobile streaming and content sharing take center stage in election coverage

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In technology as in politics,
promises of new solutions frequently
grab the headlines. But in this year’s
election cycle, some of the biggest developments
at local stations involve efforts to get
the most out of their existing investments
in technologies to help them produce
more content for more devices and, in
many cases, share content within groups.

Some stations are, for example, expanding
their multiplatform efforts to
provide live streams for mobile devices.
“We will be offering live streams to mobile
devices, which is not
something everyone can
do,” says Chip Mahaney,
director of digital content
at the E.W. Scripps
Co., which was the first
group to roll out live mobile
steaming capabilities
to its stations last year. “Live streaming to
mobile is a unique play for us.”

Other groups are also working aggressively
to ramp up their offerings. Brian
Bracco, Hearst Television VP of news, says
Hearst has responded to a jump in mobile
usage by increasing the number of stations
that will be offering live streaming to mobile
and by launching an election iPad app
that includes live streaming.

“We expect 10 or 11 stations to be
streaming to mobile on Election Night,”
Bracco notes. “As mobile traffic increases,
it’s a very important effort for us.”

Mobile streaming will also allow some
stations to offer a separate stream with
local election results to mobile devices
while viewers are watching the national
coverage on TV, Bracco adds.

Scripps’ WXYZ ABC affiliate in Detroit
has already seen notable success in offering
a separate streaming election coverage
feed—first to the Web in 2006 and
then adding mobile streams in 2010. “We
started small, in a Wayne’s World kind of
way,” says Seth Myers, director of digital
at the station. “But we’ve really built it up
into a place that viewers have come to
expect, and the place to be on Election
Night for all the big political names.”

The Election Day stream doesn’t have
a set schedule, but it typically starts early
Tuesday morning and runs into the evening,
reports Chuck Stokes, WXYZ director
of editorial and public affairs.

As part of the effort, the station has upgraded
its systems so that “we can take any
feed of video that is coming into the building
and put it on our webcast,” Myers
notes, which allows WXYZ to add feeds
from reporters in the field.

While the Election Night streaming
coverage at WXYZ is specifically produced
for online and mobile, with its
own desk and anchor, the
technology also allows
Scripps stations to regularly
stream other events, such as
visits by presidential candidates, explains
Lana Durban Scott, director of news
strategy and operations for the group.

Another major push for Scripps and
other station groups will be increased
sharing of content. This will be particularly
true among groups that have multiple stations
in one state or have regional clusters.

Blake Russell, senior VP, station operations
at Nexstar Broadcasting Group,
notes that Nexstar made a number of
upgrades over the last 18 months to
help its stations better share content,
which has become a major focus in their
election coverage.

During the conventions this summer,
Nexstar sent four multimedia journalists
(MMJ) to each convention, with each
MMJ assigned to produce material for
seven markets. The group spent several
months coordinating the efforts, with
each station providing the MMJs with
contact info for local delegates.

The MMJs were equipped with small
Panasonic P2 cameras, laptops for editing
and microphone flags showing the call
letters for the stations they represented.

During the conventions, the MMJs filed more than 150 tease stories looking
ahead at the day’s events and another
280 evening news stories that were
customized with interviews conducted
with local delegates that showed the mic flags with each station’s call letters. Stories
were sent back to the stations over
the Latakoo file-sharing system.

“It allowed us to provide unique local
coverage that only cost each market just
over $200,” Russell says.

That kind of planning and cooperation,
Russell adds, will be central to
the rest of Nexstar’s election coverage,
in which stations are sharing graphics
for their common “Your Local Election
Headquarters” branding.

In the last 18 months, Raycom has also
been making a number of upgrades to
help stations swap graphics and news stories,
using technology from Chyron and
Bitcentral. “It has allowed us to do quite
a bit of collaborating,” notes Don Shaw,
director of operations and engineering at
WBTV, the CBS affiliate in Charlotte, N.C.

Shaw adds that WBTV has been sharing
best practices from its Democratic
National Convention coverage. “It was
really a test bed for everything wireless
and everything social,” he says.

Raycom is also testing a system that
would allow stations to access live video
from other stations over its wide area
network (WAN). “We already share stories
pretty aggressively, and this will give
us a way to go live with a big story on
other stations during elections or severe
weather,” notes Susana Schuler, VP of
news for the station group.

Durban Scott at Scripps notes her
group will be sharing content from stations
in key battleground states like
Ohio and Florida. But she also stresses
that better communication has been
the key to coordinating the company’s
two TV stations and two newspapers in
Florida, which have jointly launched a election coverage

“It is really not so much about technology
as about understanding each
other and tapping into each other’s
strengths,” Durban Scott says.

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