For Local Stations, Summer Games Have Already Begun

By Carolyn Braff

Dozens of
local TV stations will send news and sports crews to
Beijing to cover this summer’s Olympic Games,
but the smaller the station, the more critical advance planning becomes. For
many of stations and station groups, the Olympics are, effectively, already here.
“The
ability to generate content and do extensive live coverage over there is
limited by your staff,” explains Greg Thies, news technology and operations
manager for KING in Seattle,
which has four NBC affiliates among its 27 TV stations. “We generate a lot of
content ahead of time by meeting athletes, setting up profiles, doing quite a
bit of work.”
The high
cost of this particular Games is restricting some smaller stations from making
the trip to Beijing,
but some others have chosen to expand their coverage in anticipation of news
events that are bound to accompany the sports news.
“In this
case, in China,
there’s going to be stories outside of the Olympic venues,” explains Brian
Bracco, vice president of news for Hearst-Argyle Television, which counts 10
NBC affiliates among its 27 stations. “ China is the most expensive
Olympics that we’ve ever encountered so we’re sending nine people. We usually
send between 9 and 12.”
Patti McGettigan,
News Director for WOOD-TV Grand Rapids, Michigan, is sending a contingent of six to Beijing.
“We
expanded our crew because we felt so short-staffed last time,” McGettigan says.
“We added a news anchor this year because in Beijing, we can expect there to be a great
deal of news outside of what’s happening with the athletes.”

The amount of news coverage has driven KING to produce all of its content in
hybrid HD, a 16:9 standard definition format that allows the local affiliates
to take the first steps toward producing their content fully in HD.
“This time
around, HD was part of the discussion,” Thies says. “There are so many different
stations in so many different formats and it’s constantly changing. From an
infrastructure standpoint for a news channel, it’s an interesting question.”
“We’re
doing 4:3,” says Bracco, “but we figure by the time we hit the Vancouver Games we’ll
probably be 16:9.”
McGettigan’s
crew will also be shooting in standard definition.