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April 19, 2018, 9:14 a.m.
Reporting & Production

From Nieman Reports: Reinventing local TV news might require going over the top

To attract young viewers, stations are going digital-first, crowdsourcing reporting, experimenting with augmented reality, and injecting more personality into the news.

When the Rev. Billy Graham died in February, Raleigh-based WRAL-TV provided expansive coverage of the famed evangelist’s life and legacy. That was no surprise since, after all, the pastor was a North Carolina native, and — though his funeral was held in his hometown of Charlotte, more than 150 miles away — generations of Raleigh-area residents had watched Graham’s global crusades, which WRAL broadcast beginning in the 1970s, on their home television sets.

In addition to reporting the news of Graham’s death, the station produced a 30-minute special, “Remembering Billy Graham.” It aired the day of his funeral, which was livestreamed on the WRAL website, Facebook, and their mobile news app as well as broadcast live on television, pre-empting the noon newscast.

Those interested in even more coverage of Graham could have turned to WRAL’s over-the-top (OTT) apps, available for Roku, Amazon Fire, Apple TV, and Chromecast. Any apps or online services such as Netflix, YouTube, and Skype, which bypass distribution via a telecommunications provider qualify as OTT. Shelly Leslie, general manager of audience development at Capitol Broadcasting, says the station added 35 pieces of Graham-related content — including clips of the motorcade bringing the preacher’s body to the cemetery in Charlotte — to the OTT apps. “We blew out regular content on the ‘watch now’ section of our OTT apps,” says Leslie, who was previously WRAL’s creative director. “We’re constantly experimenting with different content there and seeing what people want to watch.”

WRAL, the flagship station of Capitol Broadcasting Co., which owns two other TV and several radio stations in North Carolina, was one of the first local television news stations in the country to develop an OTT app. Their Roku app, first rolled out in 2010, offers streaming access to tens of thousands of clips from the station’s archive. Viewers can access everything from live and archived newscasts to live streams of legislative hearings, school board meetings, and court trials. Sports fans can watch events that don’t make the evening broadcast. These are live streamed on the OTT apps, WRAL.com, or its niche sites — wralsportsfan.com and highschoolOT.com — covering professional, college, and high school sports. OTT users also have access to WRAL documentaries from the past two decades, restaurant reviews, and podcasts from Capital Broadcasting’s sports radio stations.

Keep reading at Nieman Reports →

Photo of WRAL’s AR/VR production control room during the 2018 Winter Olympics by John Renigar/WRAL.

POSTED     April 19, 2018, 9:14 a.m.
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