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Next-Generation Coverage Arrives in Time for 2012

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After making hefty investments to upgrade their news operations in recent years, several station groups believe those efforts will significantly strengthen their 2012 election coverage.

Notable improvements in local election coverage will include greater use of backpack journalists to produce more content, new HD graphics systems for a much improved on-air look, and better systems for delivering more content to smart phones, tablets and social-media platforms.

Some of these upgrades have been in the works for several years. During the 2008 elections, Hearst executives noticed that a number of international broadcasters covering the conventions “were using technologies that made them more mobile and agile than we were,” notes Brian Bracco, VP of news for Hearst Television.

In response, Hearst developed its Next Generation news project, allowing stations to transform news operations so they could create and deliver much more content to a wider variety of platforms.

As part of that process, newsrooms were upgraded to streamline workflows, and local staff was equipped with smaller, lighter cameras, smart phones and Streambox backpacks that can send video over cellular networks.

With many of those upgrades now completed, Bracco says, “we will have all the tools in place” to strengthen both on-air and digital coverage.

Likewise, the Fox owned-and-operated station KDFW FOX 4 in Dallas is deploying LiveU backpacks as part of its expanded election coverage of Texas Governor Rick Perry’s campaign for president.

In a notable digital development, the E.W. Scripps Co. recently became the first station group to launch live-streaming content to its mobile platforms, and it plans to use that technology to significantly bolster its coverage in 2012, notes Adam Symson, vice president and chief digital officer.

“It really gives us an incredible opportunity to serve up an alternative stream of coverage,” Symson explains.

Symson—who has been working with News Over Wireless, Scripps’ partner for mobile services and apps, to further develop the offering—adds that Scripps’ live streaming product alerts should boost the number of people accessing its content and allow its stations to supplement their on-air coverage. That way, when the station is airing national network coverage on election night, local stations could use the live streams to deliver local coverage and results to smart phones and tablets.

Efforts to share graphics and other content will also be important at a number of other groups.

Gray Television, for example, has upgraded about 17 of its 36 stations to automated systems with streamlined workflows as part of larger HD upgrades, notes Jim Ocon, VP of technology at Gray Television.

Upgraded stations have new Visrt graphics engines, making it easier to share graphics from the group’s two graphics hubs, and the company has also developed in-house technologies for moving content faster from the ! eld to on-air and digital platforms, Ocon notes.

“It will make it possible to get election information out faster and achieve both qualitative and quantitative improvements in our coverage,” Ocon explains.

Raycom, meanwhile, has been deploying Chyron’s BluNet system for sharing graphics and is standardizing its newsrooms on Bitcentral’s Precis and Oasis solutions to streamline work" ows and share content, moves that will improve both their on-air look and multi-platform efforts.

“Four years ago, we didn’t have the proliferation of tablets and smart phones,” notes Fred Fourcher, president and CEO of Bitcentral. “Broadcasters know it is important to reach those screens and that they need to streamline their operations if they want to do that without hiring more people.”

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