CNN Newsource defends turf

After months of planning and talking with its big broadcast group clients, CNN Newsource will unveil a series of initiatives at this week's RTNDA conference in Minneapolis to juice up its editorial offerings-including new bureaus and a financial news service.

The new effort comes as three of the four major networks are urging their affiliates to dump Newsource in favor of their own joint-venture newsfeed service NNS.

The CNN-owned syndicated news service is opening two new bureaus-in Seattle and Denver. It's also adding people and resources in its Los Angeles, New York and Washington bureaus. And it will provide coverage of Wall Street 13-hours a day through a new service called CNN Marketsource.

Newsource is also making a new commitment to produce features and news analyses to complement its hard news coverage, according to Jack Womack, executive vice president, CNN Newsource.

In addition, the news service is building a fiber optic/satellite distribution platform to complement its existing network.

Late last year, ABC, CBS and FOX announced a plan to create a joint-venture news service for their affiliates called NNS. It debuted in June, and has been controversial from the start.

The service is seen by many as an attempt by the partner networks to take on CNN Newsource, a news service that the cable network provides to 650-plus mostly network-affiliated stations U.S.-wide.

Newsource has been a burr in the saddle of the major network news operations since it bowed in the '80s. But many affiliates credit Newsource with forcing the networks to upgrade their newsfeed services.

Broadcasting & Cable's annual survey of news directors conducted in mid-August found that more than half of those surveyed don't think NNS is a good idea. News executives are concerned about news homogeneity and the possibility competitors will get access to once-exclusive video.

But a significant number of the news directors surveyed (40%) say they believe NNS is a good idea because it offers greater choice.

Womack says the news service has pinpointed financial news as an area where stations around the country need help. Marketsource, based at the New York Stock Exchange, will give client stations live generic updates from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. at no added cost. Custom shots will be done for a fee. Jane King (from WPVI-TV Philadelphia) and Claire Leka (from Reuters Television) will serve as Marketsource's two correspondents.

The Seattle and Denver bureaus will open within the next month, complete with SNG trucks and one correspondent each-Lillian Kim (from KCRA-TV Sacramento) in Seattle and Gina London (from Newsource's Atlanta headquarters) in Denver. The two additions will give Newsource a total of six bureaus staffed by 11 correspondents.

The company is also adding an SNG truck in New York and an additional correspondent to the Washington bureau.

While Newsource is known for it hard news coverage, Womack says it will redouble its efforts to provide solid feature reporting to clients as well.

Womack also says Newsource will try to beef up its news analysis by identifying important news stories and developing "a theme of the week" around them. Such themes will be identified ahead of time so stations can market and plan ahead as well, Womack notes.

Susan Grant, president CNN Newsource Sales, says the service is simply looking for ways to complement local coverage. The question, she says, is "what can we do to augment the coverage that local stations are doing themselves."