The recent TVNewsCheck TV2025 event held virtually alongside NAB New York, covered everything from accelerating change in the industry to the evolution of broadcast. The television industry, like many others, has been forced to think differently after the events of this year, something discussed in a session titled “Remote Workflows & the Future of TV Station Operations,” featuring Bitcentral Founder and CEO Fred Fourcher.
As part of this panel, Fred joined other industry leaders, including executives from some of the largest broadcast networks in the U.S., to discuss how TV news stations have faced this year and what the future may hold. The panelists all came to the same conclusion: The way TV stations are being run is no longer a one-size-fits-all approach.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, stations had to adapt quickly. Although news media was already in the process of evolving, this urgency sped up the need to think differently.
Mike Fass, VP of Broadcast Operations for Gray Television, said their stations had already been heavily integrating automation for several years, which allowed each station to run full newscasts from home in early April.
The transition for NBCU owned TV stations came down to each facility’s size and what they could allow, according to Brad Plant, Director of Technology & Operations for NBCU Owned TV Stations. He said stations were fairly quick to navigate the change, only taking about two weeks – a result of adjusting technology in recent years so people don’t have to be near the equipment.
Advances in technology have given stations the ability to migrate quickly with simple modifications, but Fred was quick to point out that the amount of sharing has gone through the roof. He described how stations have always been sharing news between each other, but with the addition of remote and at-home operations, more stations became open to it.
He made the point looking back at historic data: In June 2019, TV stations might have had around 22,000 stories per month shared within a group. But in 2020, that spiked to 33,000 stories per month shared, with the added benefit of content being shared more widely. This approach gives more visibility to stories that would have previously only been shared regionally, giving them a more national reach.
This year has also led to an increase in contributions from the field. Before COVID, journalists and photojournalists anticipated coming back to the newsroom between stories. Now, the storytelling doesn’t all happen in a TV station, and as Fred says, the more time reporters can spend in the field, the better.
Breaking the habit of going back to the station allows journalists to say, “Hey, I’m going to file my story now, it’s ready to go,” something Fred noted is leading to more contributions from the field. In fact, the volume of stories filed from outside the studio has almost tripled, increasing from 8,000 across a group for the month to 20,000. This more field-centric workflow should result in more efficient news production and gathering, even after the pandemic has slowed.
Joe Addalia, Director of Technology Projects for Hearst Television, said prior to COVID, the company already had a large workforce in the field, with photographers equipped with technology. However, people were still coming back to the station; the storage for stations’ assets were still housed on-site. With better cloud storage and strong wifi connections, stations like those under the Hearst name will be able to adapt and move along even more quickly in the future.
It’s true that some stations struggled more than others in 2020, but with the help of technology and adaptability, collaboration and communication within the industry has only strengthened. Those pillars will help make the future of TV news operations simpler and more streamlined in the years to come, no matter what obstacles lie ahead.
View the full panel discussion here.
Need help transforming your station operations for more adaptability and remote collaboration? Bitcentral can help. Find out more here.