Friday, May 7, 2010

TWC's News 8 Becomes YNN

Time Warner’s News 8-

Part of a Nationwide Network

As cable TV giant Comcast and NBC Universal push for approval of their merger, the number two national cable communications company, Time Warner Cable (TWC) appears to be assembling a state-by-state news network that will result in the rebranding of Austin’s 24-hour cable news channel News 8. In fact, Austin’s News 8 will be the first TWC newsroom to make the shifts west of the Mississippi, according to Kevin Benz, News 8 news director. [TWC is the dominate cable television provider in Central Texas.]

Sometime in the last quarter of 2010, News 8 will become “Your News Now”, a change that is already well underway in New York State. Why do you here in Central Texas care about what’s happening in New York? TWC will become part of a locally-based network of stations spanning the nation, once they are finished. “We are now a national station group with 12 stations in 25 markets. We needed to find a common name. We’ll still all have local people, but it will be a common brand.” Benz says.

Austin’s TWC news already covers Austin, Temple, and Waco. What if news operations created in other TWC markets in Texas all went by the moniker “Your News Now”? That means that news stories and graphics from Dallas, San Antonio, the Valley, Corpus Christi, Beaumont, and El Paso could be shared easily anywhere in the state or in the nation.

It’s already happening in New York State. “When you look at New York, it’s not a big leap to say ‘How cool would that be in Texas?’” said Benz.

“A consistent name lets the company save money on graphics and marketing. It encourages more statewide advertising sales. And it fosters more sharing of news coverage. ‘When they say, “I’m John Smith for Your News Now,” that can play anywhere,”’ said Steve Paulus who oversees TWC local news division in a recent New York Times story.

The New York Times, however, missed the real story. Beyond Texas and New York, TWC is thinking how cool it would be to have stations in every major market possible across the country sharing the same look and stories.

One might argue that the News 8 brand is well established after a decade in the Austin market. It is, but it is no longer applicable when looking through the lens of HDTV and mobile media. “Our brand has never been about our channel,” Benz says. It was, perhaps, when they flipped the switch some ten years ago in the days of analog TV. Nowadays News 8 occupies at least four channels, three of which are not channel 8.

Austin News 8 facility is now embarking on a multimillion dollar remake of their studios and production facilities just north of the capitol in Downtown Austin. “We will not launch “YNN” [“Your News Now”] until we get that done,” says Benz. So, you won’t see “Your News Now” will be some unspecified time in the fourth quarter of 2010. Benz emphasizes that nothing but the name will change. “We’ll have the same people, the same content, and a fresh, clean look,” Benz says.

Actually, as time goes on and the TWC “network” comes together, there should much more content delivered by reporters from across the country.

Other changes are ongoing. News 8 went live with a redo of their website, a month ago.

News 8 or “Your News Now” is a 24-hour news operation which is only available on Time Warner Cable. It is a not broadcast station one can receive over the air with an antenna or via satellite.

© Jim McNabb, 2010

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but this makes no sense to me. If memory serves, wasn't News 8 created with the intent of bringing Austin its first-ever 24 hour LOCAL news station? As I recall when I visited their new studios as a potential sponsor a few months before they went on the air, the suits and sales and marketing people there were crowing about giving the other local news operations a run for their money.

I won't even get into discussing the embarrassing face-plant News 8 ("News Late") did in the early years as they failed to back up that boasting. What I would like to know is how unifying the brand across cities contributes in any way to bolstering the alleged LOCAL news content. It's bad enough that the station simply rotates canned packages and fluffy crap like that stale "Web Sightings" piece to the point of nausea every 30 minutes; am I to understand that now we're going to see increased use of features from out-of-state markets?

Why "share" anything with New York? If I want New York news, then dammit, I'll go find it myself. I thought the premise behind these local 24/7 news stations was supposed to be a more intensive focus on LOCAL news.

Even if News 8 goes heavy on stuff from other TX cities (and I realize they like to do a round-up of state stories, and that's fine), I still don't see the urgency in this re-branding. For crying out loud, just do some creative editing. Problem solved.

From a business perspective, I fail to see how any prospective sponsor would give a damn that they're advertising on "YNN" instead of "News 8 Austin." That offers no incentive whatsoever to a company looking to spend ad dollars, especially if they only aim to market to an Austin audience.

From a news perspective, one would think that a better use of money and brain-power would be figuring out how to get more reporters on the payroll, so you could beef up your news content. Of course the first objection I always hear is "it's not in the budget." Yet management can blow "millions" on a shiny new set and pat itself on the back, as if that's some major journalistic victory. I've never understood this. Starve the few reporters you've got to come in under budget, but spare no expense on the high quality wood desk, new lighting and spiffy new logo and graphics. This is all just so much stupidity.

Methinks Time-Warner has once again come down with a case of megalomania. It's abandoning its commitment to local news in favor of chasing some silly notion of a "network." It may look "cool" to insiders, but from the perspective of the viewers, the sponsors and anyone who really cares about the quality of the news product, this is just dumb. Once again, lousy priorities in an industry that often can't tell its ass from its elbow.