Valari Staab is leading her NBC and Telemundo stations into the future with heavy emphasis on finding the best in new technology and synergies that allow her local journalists to develop more locally produced, original content for the stations on a multitude of platforms. (Photo: Wendy Moger-Bross)
NBCUniversal’s 40 owned and operated NBC and Telemundo stations are moving in many directions with experiments in technology aimed at meeting the ever-changing needs of viewers.
Valari Staab, president of NBC’s and Telemundo’s O&Os, speaking at the annual NewsTECHForum in New York on Monday, talked about experimenting with cloud-based technology at Telemundo Las Vegas station KBLR, the joint NBC WCAU-WWSI Internet Protocol-based newsroom in Philadelphia, and the stations’ centralized hub in Denver that can distribute content to assorted stations around the country.
Staab participated in a Q&A with TVNewsCheck Editor Harry Jessell.
She also discussed how several smaller Telemundo stations are gathering news via iPhones and using technology to post those videos on the air. She said once the technology is perfected, it could lead to a cost savings in news gathering.
And she also described the synergy between NBC and Telemundo stations, explaining that in 12 markets where there are duopolies, the staffs of both stations cooperate in a multitude of areas including news gathering and production.
“We have bilingual reporters and photographers are our duopoly stations so we can trade content and function in synergy as one newsroom,” she said. Even the assignment desks are bilingual.
Staab also discussed other technological advances such as its three year “weather project” where the station group has developed its own storm forecast and tracking system as an alternative to the current U.S. and European models used by most weather services and station groups.
“It’s our own forecasting unit for all of our O&O markets,” she said.
In addition, the station group now has six Storm Ranger mobile units that it can station on each coast that will pick up and track storms and also detect smoke, which can be used to warm viewers about air quality danger.
The NBC station group is also experimenting with creating a station OTT channel and in February will begin live streaming video news clips via OTT.
And Staab says the station group is also putting “a lot of resources in storytelling by platform.” She says the same exact news is not run on every platform, but is customized and all different.
She said Telemundo stations also now have their own local news apps, different from the Univision stations, which each use the Univision national app.
More money and time is also being spent on developing more locally produced, original content for the stations. She cited the success of the local show New York Live that covers local news, travel and restaurant news and features Monday through Friday after the mid-day news. She says a similar format will begin at three other stations in January.
Staab says while the stations borrow ideas from one another at times, they all market themselves in their own way. She says this differs from when she first became station group president in 2011 and the group was using a hub marketing approach to promote each station.
“A New York-based agency was creating promotional campaigns for TV stations in all part of the country that looked the same, all homogenized,” she said. “It took the local out of local.” So that was done away with.
Staab says every station creates its own investigative reporting team that works on both short-term and long-term projects. She says while each station does get support from the corporate station group, and while each station’s I-teams do share ideas and information, each team has its own autonomy.
The NBC stations do have a graphics center in Dallas where a group of graphic artists are available to help each station if their own staffs need it. But the graphics hub primary helps the Telemundo stations, many of which don’t have their own graphic art staffs.
Since she became O&O president, Staab says more money has gone into funding local stations’ newscasts, primarily because “we still make a maximum amount of our money from local news.” And, she adds, “people in most markets have the most affinity for local news.”
Closing out the session, Jessell asked Staab if President Trump’s labeling of TV news not favorable to him as “fake news” has led to an increase in negative treatment of NBC station reporters.
She says it has, citing instances where NBC corporate has supplied security at events where it was felt reporters might encounter a problem.
She says when there was a national call by news organizations to publicly repudiate Trump, five NBC local stations participated with on-air editorials. She said each O&O had a 100% choice to either participate or not.
Here is the link to a video of this session: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYzr7Lt9gSY
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