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Fox, NBC Share Chicago Chopper

Fox O&O WFLD and NBC O&O WMAQ are sharing a helicopter and its footage in Chicago, and the agreement paves the way for a larger pooling effort. “The fact that Fox and NBC have a philosophical and tactical agreement to sharing terms on the helicopter gives us a very solid launching point for ground sharing,” says Fox Senior VP of News Sharri Berg.

The helicopter share was previously reported in the Chicago Tribune.

Fox and NBC officially began sharing newsgathering efforts (and expenses) in Philadelphia this month, following a trial that kicked off in May. The joint campaign is called Local News Service (LNS). While reporters from both NBC’s WCAU and Fox’s WTXF chase their own enterprise stories, the plan for LNS is to cut costs—and free up reporters--by pooling footage at a news event that’s relatively non-breaking, such as a mayoral press conference. “These are stories that in many cases everyone’s bringing the same video in,” said Fox Television Stations CEO Jack Abernethy in November. “The same pieces, the same packages.”

Berg says the Philadelphia LNS produces about 23 stories a day, up from just a few when the project was first tested several months ago. “It’s going very well,” she says.

With stations increasingly looking to cut costs, sharing costly chopper expenses becomes attractive to many. Gannett’s KUSA and McGraw-Hill’s KMGH are in talks to share a helicopter in Denver.

Berg says the “conversations have already begun” in Chicago about stepping up the WFLD/WMAQ partnership.

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.