Fox Television Stations and NBC Local Media announced yesterday that they would pool news video in six cities in which they both own TV stations, starting with Philadelphia.
The partnership between rivals, tested this spring and summer at Philadelphia's Fox29 and NBC10, acknowledges the economic forces buffeting big media companies and eliminates some redundancies in coverage. John Wallace, president of NBC Local Media, called it "smart from a journalistic perspective because newsrooms can be laser-focused on enterprise" reporting.
Under the prosaic working name "Local News Service," the venture will begin officially here in January at Fox's WTXF (Channel 29) and NBC's WCAU (Channel 10). It later will be introduced in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Dallas and Washington.
In Philadelphia, a managing editor overseeing six news crews from each station will decide which events to cover - from routine news conferences to aerial views of fires from a shared helicopter - and will notify the newsrooms.
"When the LNS is out at a story, they'll send the feed back, and the station makes the determination if it will use it," said Jack Abernethy, chief executive of Fox Television Stations. He said each station would edit and voice the video so the report had a particular look and feel.
The workers involved would remain on their stations' payrolls.
Abernethy pointed to undetermined savings in a "tough, belt-tightening environment."
He and Wallace said they had approached other, unidentified stations in Philadelphia to join the LNS.
The LNS also would sell video footage to other outlets, such as television stations, print publications, radio stations and digital media. Abernethy said the LNS would become the largest video aggregator in each of its markets.
Mike Renda, general manager of Fox29, met with staff yesterday about the arrangement. "I told [them], if there's anything they walk out of the room with, it's the idea that this does not impact our need to be competitive and win," he said.
As of Wednesday, NBC10 was ranked third (behind 6ABC and CBS3) for the 11 p.m. newscast, with a 5.2 rating. Fox29's 10 p.m. news had a 4.2 rating. NBC10 also provides content for a 10 p.m. news show on MYPHL (Channel 17), which had a 1.9 rating.
Both station groups' parent companies are partners in the video-sharing Web site Hulu.com.