The Road to OTT: Is that REALLY a TV story?
How do news organizations find their footing when the ground starts shifting? We’re providing a hands-on view into the process that’s unfolding as newsrooms at the Missouri School of Journalism begin exploring and launching over-the-top (OTT) products and projects.
Innovative journalists are attracted to gadgets. With the chaos that became of the Iowa Caucuses, do you want to see a totally different view? Today’s stop on The Road to OTT takes us to a major broadcast group and their newest gadget.
Some of the memorable gadgets of the television era brought live pictures from far flung places using complicated (and expensive) technology. Now, we routinely accomplish the same with a smartphone. That “live” technology cemented the “standup” as a mainstay of television storytelling. NBC’s owned stations started on The Road to OTT focusing on storytelling techniques while leaving the streaming mechanics to parent companies NBCUniversal and Comcast.
Last fall, NBCUniversal's TV station division announced the launch of LX as a “digital news brand and soon-to-launch over-the-air and streaming network.” Since then, LX’s team, including “visual storytellers” embedded at NBC stations in select markets are creating content that you won’t find beyond YouTube, LX.com, and social media. Under the direction of LX’s Content Strategy Vice President Matt Goldberg and News Director Meagan Harris, LX’s storytellers are experimenting with different approaches.
Why not Roku, Amazon or AppleTV? The LX team wanted to initially focus on YouTube and social media where Gen Z and Millennial audiences are active. Look for LX to be a big part of how the NBC-owned stations battle in the Streaming Wars.
I spoke with Goldberg and LX’s visual storyteller Chase Cain about the launch of the LX series Guided Tour. The weekly series features the use of a 360-degree camera and launched with Cain’s story The Great Barrier Reef. In traditional storytelling “you either see the thing that I am experiencing, or you see me,” says Cain. “It is just not as authentic as seeing two things at once,” adds Cain. When I challenged Cain and his boss Goldberg on using the technique beyond feature stories, they shared Cain’s coverage of last December’s Democratic candidate debate in Los Angeles. So back to Iowa. Cain is a first-time caucus reporter and didn’t know what to expect. Having been to Iowa multiple times during caucus season, I was looking forward to seeing his approach. See is you agree the final product did justice to this unique electoral exercise?
Goldberg says the 360-degree cameras were an experiment, but now believes they can end up in every modern reporter’s gadget bag. While I tend to avoid product reviews, I quizzed Goldberg about the gadget. Goldberg says the camera can cost as much as $400 and it’s not just any 360-degree camera. “It has the ability for you to take a center-cut in any direction,” says Goldberg explaining that this feature makes it useful in the 16:9 broadcast or streaming world as well as the vertical world of mobile phones. And, what about interviews where two-cameras create a more intimate conversation with a reporter? “If I put the camera on a desk, I could literally in post create a move from you to me that would look almost like the camera was panning,” adds Goldberg.
So, back to those traditional standups: “The idea is that this really is a different way to experience something,” says Goldberg. One the first LX storytelling experiments happened during the California wildfires. As Los Angeles TV crews reported from an area where homes were burned by the fires, Cain took his 360-degree camera to show LX’s audiences what it was like to be where he was, to see what he was seeing as he walked down the street and inside of homes that were affected by the fires. I pressed Goldberg about when we will see LX on streaming and over-the-air platforms. Goldberg told me “it’s fair to say we are targeting the Spring.” One thing Goldberg was clear about: “LX is powered by NBCUniversal’s owned stations division,” he says emphasizing that LX is designed to complement to the local stations’ content, so don’t be surprised when you see Chase and his fellow storytellers on an NBC-owned station.
Also worth noting that parent company Comcast announced NBCUniversal’s Peacock service launches April 15 as the newest player in the streaming business. We will come back to LX after its TV and streaming launch because there is more to this story. Watch LX’s stories on YouTube and follow their team on social @NBCLX.