Every so often, FOX 26 KRIV goes off in its own direction. As of late, it has reformatted its noon newscast and has launched a web only show at 4:30pm called 30 Minutes 'til Air.
Both the 12pm TV news and the web show have the same theme. An anchor is in the newsroom talking to staffers about upcoming stories...and there are a lot of technical errors from the few clips I have seen.
These ideas are really more recycled ones from previous FOX 26 efforts. In 2007, the station had an afternoon web only show that was pretty good and innovative. It had good production value too. In 2010, the station started throwing out the scripts and ad-libbing the news on TV. Both efforts were eventually scrapped.
All I knew about the new FOX 26 noon news was that it looked different. When I finally saw clips from Monday's show, I thought there was an epic meltdown going on. Yes, there were some technical errors, but the rest of the show was supposed to look like that (more on this in a moment).
It's easy to describe the noon show as semi-controlled chaos.
“What makes this program unusual is that we really get to know both the on-air and off-air staff,” KRIV VP and news director Bob Morford told NetNewsCheck's Diana Marszalek about the web only show. “With no scripts at all, everyone ad libs (discussions of) what they are reporting on.”
Ultimately I blame Harvey Levin and TMZ. Levin's syndicated TMZ shows him as the boss, chatting with the newsroom about the day's stories. It's fast paced, comical, creative and overall entertaining. The show also gets decent ratings around the country and I would guess attracts younger viewers.
This seems to cause a light bulb to go off over local TV news managers' heads across the US. They think, "If it's working for TMZ, then we can do this too." It's already a reality in New Jersey.
The only difference is that TMZ has a decent sized staff, comedy writers, good editors/post people and is not live (yes I know there is a live version of TMZ on TV, but I don't even know how live that really is and it's also a different format).
Clearly FOX corporate and KRIV are being seduced by Mr. Levin and his crew. TMZ airs on KRIV by the way.
In Houston, that means the noon news and the web show, consist of an anchor interviewing staffers about upcoming stories. So let's analyze this. To attract more viewers (which is the stated goal of the web show), two talking heads gab about a 1:20 to 1:45 minute story they are working on for a future newscast for about the same amount of time. Then to look hip, they have live shots on iPads that don't seem to have good Internet connections.
"It is kind of like a butcher who has bland undersized sausages that are not selling," one TV insider told mikemcguff.com. "Instead of spicing up his product and making it bigger, he inundates his potential customers with videos of how the bland undersized sausages are made."
This effort also makes me think about a reporter/anchor and other staffers' workflow. Does a reporter have the proper time to work on a story if they have to hang around and fill time on the noon newscast or web show? Will a story's substance suffer due to lack of time to fully work on it? And for the photog who didn't want to be on Monday's web show, will off the air types be forced in front of the camera more often?
And just because it's online doesn't mean it has to look cheap and be thrown together. These days, if you click the "Popular on YouTube" tab, most of the top videos are from network shows or movie trailers and look very professional. Even the so called "YouTuber" stars have more polished looking stuff.
Yes, I am sitting here in the equivalent of my mother's basement blogging away criticisms, but don't get me wrong, I'm all for experimentation like this. In a time when TV ratings are going down and the quest for the key demo is more important than ever, I applaud FOX's efforts here. Nor am I trying to attack the Houston KRIV staffers who are trying their best to implement this with few apparent resources.
"What you don't understand is we don't have the staff and time to make the web show look good and prepare for the 5pm news," says the imaginary TV staffer in my head.
I'm sure that's true. But the audience doesn't care about that. If something doesn't look appealing they have a thousand cable channels, Netflix movies and way more YouTube videos to go look at. First impressions count.
As I've blogged before, low cost creative programming for TV stations is out there.
A newscast FOX 26 won't tamper with is it's morning news block. I hear that show is doing very well in the ratings.