Come January, Dallas-Ft. Worth viewers will see Maria Arita, anchor of the 4 p.m. news on CBS-owned KTVT, reporting the day’s events on another station in town. Under a new deal, KTVT will produce several daily 90-second Spanish-language news updates for Azteca America affiliate KODF.
KTVT plans to hire an executive producer to write and produce the updates, which Arita will host. Plans call for KTVT eventually to produce a full half-hour newscast. “They need news,” says KTVT General Manager Steve Mauldin, “and we have an opportunity to reach this fast-growing Hispanic market.”
Dallas-Ft. Worth is one of five markets where KODF parent company Una Vez Mas (UVM) is launching Spanish news produced by a third party. Outsourcing news—often called news shares—has become a popular way for some stations, from mid-market Fox affiliates to Spanish-language broadcasters, to air newscasts without the substantial expense of starting up and staffing a newsroom.
“We want to turn these stations from something beamed in by satellite to stations with roots in the community,” says UVM President/COO Randy Nonberg. “The best way to do that is with news.”
Although UVM is partnered with KTVT in Dallas, it signed up a news-production company to service four other stations. Beginning early next year, Independent News Network (INN), based in Davenport, Iowa, will produce early-evening newscasts for UVM’s Azteca America stations in Brownsville, Texas; San Antonio; Las Vegas; and Phoenix.
The company already creates “local” newscasts for about a dozen stations, including several Spanish-language out lets. It uses anchors and producers at its central facility, which can produce three newscasts at a time. Stations opt for a live feed or pre-taped product.
But importing news can be risky. Broadcasters have failed with a centralized news operation, which critics say homogenizes the news and is not truly local. Last fall, Sinclair Broadcast Group scaled back its NewsCentral, which was designed as a low-cost way to supply news, weather and commentary to many of its stations, and cancelled newscasts on Fox and WB stations in about a dozen markets. Several of those stations now outsource news to other outlets in their markets.
INN takes steps to localize its newscasts. The company puts at least one reporter in each of its partnered markets. INN’s Iowa-based anchors visit the local markets at least twice a year to host affiliate events and shoot promos. They are urged to keep up with local news and events for better on-air banter. Even the set is designed to appear local, with cityscapes from the various markets serving as a backdrop.
INN contends those steps make the product authentic. “Sinclair would cut back to a national anchor, and it felt like a hybrid newscast,” says INN Chief Technical Officer Jeff Lyle. “We don’t think the viewer should be able to tell their news is coming from Davenport.”
LOCAL POV IN SPANISH
Wherever the news originates, media buyers say Spanish local news is an important addition to a market’s media mix. “An in-language news is a lifeline to what is happening in your community,” says media buyer Rosa Serrano, a senior VP for multicultural for Initiative Media.
In big Hispanic markets, Univision and Telemundo stations usually offer local news and attract large audiences. In Miami, the outlets of those two top Spanish-language networks are the highest-rated news stations in the market.
But midsize markets, such as Sacramento, Calif., and Cincinnati, have growing Hispanic populations as well. Broadcasters there are developing ways to serve the audience with local news, by either partnering or producing a Spanish newscast.
In Nashville, for example, Telefutura affiliate WLLC airs 90-second updates produced in partnership with CBS affiliate WLWT. WLLC News Director/anchor Susana Pae works with WLWT staffers to select stories and video, then writes and anchors the segments.
Local Hispanic-owned grocery store La Reyna and retailer Electronic Express sponsor the segments. While Spanish-speakers make up only about 4% of the Nashville market, General Manager Bob Jay believes the station is producing a critical public service: “Those viewers who need to watch in Spanish deserve a local point of view on what is happening.”
If viewers and advertisers respond to the products, UVM plans to add news in Tucson, Ariz.; Tampa, Fla.; Atlanta; and Washington by late 2007, with either INN or local partners.
Says UVM President of Television Bob Hyland, “We are looking at ways to serve the local marketplaces effectively.”