CBS-owned WBBM and Tribune's WGN have signed up for the content sharing program launched by Fox and NBC known Local News Service (LNS) in Chicago. They're set to start May 11.
Fox and NBC announced their initial partnership, which involves both sides kicking in video-gathering personnel for pooled content, in November. The program launched in Philadelphia, then took off in several other markets where both own stations, including Dallas and Chicago.
The Chicago stations each contribute two photographers and an assignment editor to the LNS pool. "The simplest way to explain it is, we put in two photographers and we get eight back," says WBBM President/General Manager Bruno Cohen.
Cohen said he was contacted about joining LNS around the beginning of the year.
The lone major holdout in Chicago is the market leading ABC O&O, WLS. WLS was invited to join LNS but declined.
LNS will focus on events where every station would typically send crews, such as a press conference or basketball game. The idea is to free up reporters to chase down more enterprising stories.
While some are concerned that joint news projects will homogenize local news, Cohen says it will help each station reinforce its news brand through signature reportage. Reporters can get opinions on a mayor's news conference from more people on the street, he says, with the personnel that would've had to shoot the press conference itself pre-LNS. "I think it'll create more differentiation in the market," Cohen says. "The amount of news resources required to cover the must-cover events will be reduced."
The folks at WGN agree. "There are assignments we all know about and we all cover," says News Director Greg Caputo. "The competitive part is how we work [the pooled content] into our stories. It's what you do with it after you shoot it-the extra analysis, the extra interviews."
Cohen says the four stations will hire a managing editor to run Chicago's LNS.
CBS O&Os in other markets are reportedly in talks with the local Fox and NBC outlets about throwing their weight behind LNS too.
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Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.