“The beauty of this show is that it’s got content from all over the NBC Universal platforms,” said Matt Glassman.
It was Wednesday afternoon, and Mr. Glassman, a senior producer of content at NBC’s local owned-and-operated station in Washington D.C., was on the phone with The Observer talking about a newfangled, pioneering-type show called Daily Connection.
The program, which soft-launched on WRC-4 on Sept. 14 and currently airs every weekday at 3 p.m, is arguably the first show of its kind: a network-produced, “local” news show that is largely created at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City and yet airs in a local news market, several hundred miles away.
Call it a creative breakthrough in network synergy. Or call it a another example of NBC executives managing for margins, not ratings, ala The Jay Leno Show. But in either case, it’s a radical attempt to re-imagine local news programming at the station level.
How does it work?
According to Mr. Glassman, every day, producers in New York comb through the myriad stories that have aired or are about to air across the range of NBC Universal TV and Web properties–including NBC News, the Weather Channel, Bravo, MSNBC, CNBC, NBC sports, NBC mobile, etc.–and pick out a handful of breezy stories to repeat on Daily Connection.
Producers in New York then compose and edit the news elements and send the package to a control room in Washington D.C. From there, the local station takes over.
Every day, WRC-4 assigns two members of its newsroom, from a rotating cast of anchors and reporters, to host Daily Connection. Typically, the hour of programming begins with a brief bit of live (or live-to-tape) news about the day’s big story–Congress debating a health-care bill; a shooting at Fort Hood etc.–and then segues into a playful hour of effervescent news stories largely tailored to female viewers.
Here and there, WRC-4 producers sprinkle in fresh content, such as a recent, original interview with NBC artist-in-residence Jon Bon Jovi. But for the most part, the majority of the news comes from repurposed material that has already appeared elsewhere in the NBC Universal universe.
Not long ago, for instance, NBC News pater familias Tom Brokaw interviewed actor Tom Hanks in New Orleans at the reopening of the National World War II Museum. A portion of the interview first aired on NBC News’ Today show. Afterwards, editors repackaged the interview, and sent it to D.C., where it found a second life on Daily Connection.
Is anyone watching? Currently, Nielsen only provides limited local ratings to reporters, and WRC-4 declined to share any specific ratings information for Daily Connection with The Observer. NBC News representatives told us that Daily Connection is already competitive against a fierce line-up of syndicated shows at 3 p.m. in D.C., which includes The Dr. Oz Show, General Hospital, and The Tyra Banks Show. But they didn’t hand over the actual ratings data.
In D.C., Daily Connection replaced WRC-4′s syndication of Dr. Phil. In general, syndication is expensive. Airing, say, Dr. Phil in a market the size of D.C. could cost a station tens of thousands of dollars a week. Leftover news, on the other hand, is cheap. From an NBC perspective, the obvious appeal of the show is that it costs the network virtually nothing to produce. All of the on-air talent is already paid for. Ditto the content.
There are also more potential upsides to be had in the future. To wit: The bulk of the stories on Daily Connection are generic enough to air as news in cities around the country from D.C. to San Diego to Indianapolis. To date, WRC-4 is the only NBC station making use of New York’s package of repurposed content. But multiple NBC stations around the country could also adopt the format, potentially saving the network millions of dollars in syndication fees at a time when revenue at broadcast stations is increasingly scarce.
Sources at NBC tell The Observer that former CBS News president Andrew Heyward, (who joined NBC News as a consultant back in June) helped create the pilot for Daily Connection under the attentive watch of NBC Universal chief Jeff Zucker.
Afterwards, NBC executives tapped Rich Latour, a former CNBC producer, as Daily Connection‘s executive producer. He currently oversees the D.C. program from New York.