Next-Generation Coverage Arrives in Time for 2012

Stations are betting that upgrades and investments in newsroom technologies will pay off 10/03/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

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After making hefty investments to upgrade their
news operations in recent years, several station groups
believe those efforts will significantly strengthen their
2012 election coverage.

Notable improvements in local election coverage will include
greater use of backpack journalists to produce more content, new
HD graphics systems for a much improved on-air look, and better
systems for delivering more content to smart phones, tablets and
social-media platforms.

Some of these upgrades have been in the works for several years. During the 2008
elections, Hearst executives noticed that a number of international broadcasters covering
the conventions “were using technologies that made them more mobile and agile
than we were,” notes Brian Bracco, VP of news for Hearst Television.

In response, Hearst developed its Next Generation news project, allowing stations
to transform news operations so they could create and deliver much more content to
a wider variety of platforms.

As part of that process, newsrooms were upgraded to streamline workflows, and
local staff was equipped with smaller, lighter cameras, smart phones and Streambox
backpacks that can send video over cellular networks.

With many of those upgrades now completed, Bracco says, “we will have all the
tools in place” to strengthen both on-air and digital coverage.

Likewise, the Fox owned-and-operated station
KDFW FOX 4 in Dallas is deploying LiveU backpacks
as part of its expanded election coverage of Texas Governor
Rick Perry’s campaign for president.

In a notable digital development, the E.W. Scripps
Co. recently became the first station group to launch
live-streaming content to its mobile platforms, and it
plans to use that technology to significantly bolster its
coverage in 2012, notes Adam Symson, vice president
and chief digital officer.

“It really gives us an incredible opportunity to serve
up an alternative stream of coverage,” Symson explains.

Symson—who has been working with News Over
Wireless, Scripps’ partner for mobile services and apps,
to further develop the offering—adds that Scripps’ live
streaming product alerts should boost the number of people
accessing its content and allow its stations to supplement
their on-air coverage. That way, when the station is
airing national network coverage on election night, local
stations could use the live streams to deliver local coverage
and results to smart phones and tablets.

Efforts to share graphics and other content will also
be important at a number of other groups.

Gray Television, for example, has upgraded about 17 of its 36
stations to automated systems with streamlined workflows as part
of larger HD upgrades, notes Jim Ocon, VP of technology at Gray

Upgraded stations have new Visrt graphics engines, making it
easier to share graphics from the group’s two graphics hubs, and
the company has also developed in-house technologies for moving
content faster from the ! eld to on-air and digital platforms,
Ocon notes.

“It will make it possible to get election information out faster and achieve both
qualitative and quantitative improvements in our coverage,” Ocon explains.

Raycom, meanwhile, has been deploying Chyron’s BluNet system for sharing graphics
and is standardizing its newsrooms on Bitcentral’s Precis and Oasis solutions to
streamline work" ows and share content, moves that will improve both their on-air
look and multi-platform efforts.

“Four years ago, we didn’t have the proliferation of tablets and smart phones,” notes
Fred Fourcher, president and CEO of Bitcentral. “Broadcasters know it is important
to reach those screens and that they need to streamline their operations if they want
to do that without hiring more people.”

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