The group owner’s engineering VP, Del Parks, says that while strategy and tactics are continually evolving for how to best incorporate desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones, they are an extension of the station’s brand, “and because eyeballs are definitely there, we have to be there.”
Like other TV station groups, Sinclair Broadcast Group is trying to exploit the proliferation of second screens — desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones — while always keeping an eye on the bottom line, according to the group’s chief tech executive, Del Parks.
“You have to make a buck,” he said during a Content and Communications World convention panel Thursday morning on multiplatform production and distribution by traditional TV programmers. “That’s really important to us.”
Strategy and tactics are continually evolving, Parks said. “We are just beginning to understand how to use all of these tools. It’s actually pretty exciting.”
During Hurricane Sandy, several Sinclair stations provided wall-to-wall coverage, simulcasting online so that people who lost power and could watch on battery-powered mobile devices. Flagship Fox affiliate WBFF Baltimore went 28 hours straight, he said, noting that an estimated 55,000 people tuned in via phones or tablets.
During election season, six Sinclair hosted town hall meetings for candidate debates, streamed them live online and then repeated them later on air.
Parks also said that the stations make raw video available online. “You can go watch all the video footage — the traffic accidents, the hostage situations — you pick the disaster.”
The biggest challenge of moving into the multiplatform world is not technology, Parks said. It’s transforming the culture of the Sinclair newsrooms.
Before, TV stations were like newspapers, working toward a series of deadlines. Now, the Internet demands that newsrooms operate 24/7 and post stories as soon as possible. “Our content can’t be saved for the big newscast…. We can’t make the same mistake that the newspapers did in how we deal with the multiscreen experience.”
Connecting with viewers via the new media is especially important to TV stations because viewers identify with news anchors, Parks said. During focus groups with viewers, he said, it’s “absolutely jaw dropping” how much they know about the anchors — how many children they, where they shop, who does their hair.
“So the multiscreen experience is a very personal thing for our news operations. We picked up on this very early. So as an extension of brand and because eyeballs are definitely there, we have to be there.”