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From the Field

The 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 easily interactive.

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 cringe.

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 every morning?

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 rfriedman@1ktv.com
The views expressed in this article are Rick's opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of VStar, its management, directors, or shareholders.

 



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