Hidden and Dangerous New Threat to Television News
By Rick Friedman
There's a new and potentially devastating threat to broadcast
news that hardly anyone in the industry sees coming. It's
just around the corner, like a barreling freight train. In
an industry where even instant gratification is too slow,
managers faced with shrinking revenues and tougher demands
for a better bottom line are too absorbed right now to even
look up and look ahead. That threat is the wireless web.
Don't let the last year's wave of dot bombs fool you. In an
increasingly mobile world, always moving ahead at warp speed,
the Darwinian web shakeout has left a stronger and more dangerous
species of alternatives ready to take over the hearts and
minds of TV viewers.
Think about it. Already, you're spending more time on your
PC than you are in front of the tube. New technology has reduced
much of that PC power into a handheld device you now call
your personal organizer or PDA's (Portable Digital Applications)
Slip a modem into the top and a memory card into the back
and you can receive an on-demand, television-like experience
absolutely anywhere. Even more beneficial, it's smoothly and
Your traditional broadcast newscast is like a T-Rex waiting
for a meteor shower. What's the source of this threat? I see
it firsthand every day, and even get to participate in it.
Nearly two years ago, I abandoned a life-long career in television
news for a start-up web technology company called VStar. Less
than a year later, we introduced the world's first photo-realistic
cyber news anchors to our 1KTV website. They're always camera-ready,
never need time off, and never make an ad-lib that makes you
This spring, we extended our coverage to work on all the cellular
carriers in greater Los Angeles. Now, we're extending the
benefits of interactivity to all our wireless platforms.
The global rollout of VStar's exclusive, proprietary application
is coming next. In this highly competitive world, no one at
our company is na´ve enough to believe that we'll be alone
in this game forever. VStar is, however, the undisputed leader
in this critical area of a dramatic communications revolution.
Many station managers, desperate to protect their bottom line,
are foolishly shrinking their web effort instead of expanding
it. Even though office workers are booting up their PC's at
7:30 or 8:00 in the morning, local station websites aren't
being updated til lunchtime.
The value of a station's brand extension to its website is
virtually nullified. Only KABC-TV in Los Angeles noticeably
recognizes this issue, and tells viewers of its 5 a.m. newscast
not to even look for updated info on its website until after
10 a.m. What happens when your viewers can get updated television-style
news in the palm of their hand while standing in line at Starbucks
Their favorite news source will no longer be your station
- dooming a well-established mission that has become harder
than ever to achieve. Back-in-the day, I produced a local
newscast that scored a 28 rating and a 36 share; today a 5
rating is heroic. When that benchmark falls below a 2, the
income from a 30-second spot will become marginal, at best.
Managers, anchors, reporters, and producer/writers must recognize
and respond to the tidal wave of technological change now,
and prepare to launch the wireless web lifeboats that will
carry television news into the future. Otherwise, station
revenues will shrink even more drastically, resulting in more
job cuts and more pay cuts, threatening the survival of an
industry that is already reeling and gasping for air.
About the Author
Rick Friedman is Vice President of News and Production for
VStar, Inc., based in Woodland Hills, CA. Prior to that, he
was Senior Executive Producer of News at KCOP-TV in Los Angeles.
He is an Emmy winning television news veteran with over 25
years of local, syndication, and network experience. Interested
readers who wish to view the photo-realistic cyber news anchors
can get more information at www.1ktvla.com,
or email Rick at firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed in this article are Rick's opinions
and do not necessarily reflect the views of VStar, its management,
directors, or shareholders.