Cleveland Stations Plan Pool Party

With broadcasters bracing for more hard times ahead, 2009 is already shaping up to be the year local stations redefined the term “pool party.”

A month after the Fox- and NBC-owned stations officially kicked off their video share in Philadelphia, at least two Cleveland stations are set to pool some resources.

Starting this week, Raycom CBS outlet WOIO and Gannett NBC affiliate WKYC will share video from set events, such as a mayor's press conference or Cavaliers post-game. The idea is for each station to put its unique stamp on the footage through trademark writing and producing, while freeing up resources for both stations to chase down their own enterprise stories.

WOIO VP/General Manager Bill Applegate and WKYC President/General Manager Brooke Spectorsky said the other major stations in the No. 17 DMA, which includes Local TV's WJW and Scripps' WEWS, are expected to join the venture.

“You see three or four cameras at some of these events,” says Applegate. “It really doesn't make a lot of sense.”

WOIO and WKYC make for somewhat peculiar bedfellows. Noisy and aggressive, WOIO's newscasts have the feel of tabloid newspapers. The more staid WKYC bears the slogan “Report the facts. Respect the truth.”

“We're a little more conservative,” says Spectorsky. “We're not an Action News.”

The plan was hatched after Applegate and Spectorsky had a chance to study what Fox and NBC were working on in Philadelphia, a venture dubbed Local News Service. (Fox and NBC have also been working together in Washington, Dallas and Chicago, among other markets where both own a station.)

Cleveland stations have shared video in the past, such as when a court declares that not all stations can shoot during a trial.

Both GMs say they don't envision layoffs stemming from the share. Spectorsky says there was a “natural apprehension” from employees fearful of downsizing, but believes most understand that extraordinarily difficult times call for bold moves.

“In this economy we're looking for efficiencies, and this gives us efficiency,” he says. “This is a way to expand our newsgathering, and I think the staff understands it.”

While Cleveland has been hit particularly hard by the recession, Applegate figures it won't be the last market where stations share resources.

“Once the other stations get involved here,” he says, “I think you'll start to see it in other places.”

Michael Malone

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.