NBC Local Sites Tune In To CGM

Plugging into the Web's user content boom, NBC Universal plans to add a video-sharing service to the Web sites of its local TV stations. The move marks a departure for local news sites, which tend to rely exclusively on their own broadcast video on the Web.

NBC last week launched a video-sharing section on the site of its Philadelphia affiliate, NBC10.com, through a partnership with startup Web video company Motionbox. A special "Celebrate Summer" section on the site invites visitors to upload videos of their summer vacation trips. The video service is expected to be rolled out to each of NBCU's ten owned-and-operated stations by next year.

To date, local news sites have been reluctant to experiment with user-generated video. "They're just taking the newscast and throwing it up there" on the Web, said Gordon Borrell, president of Borrell Associates, a research firm specializing in local media. He estimated that only a fraction of local TV sites have experimented with video-sharing because of concerns about legal liability and the impact on their credibility. Local station news managers are applying broadcast standards to the Web "and it doesn't work because the rules are different on the Internet," said Borrell.

NBC appears to be warming up to user-generated video in other respects. Last month, the network forged a promotional deal with popular viral video site YouTube, ending a public disagreement between the companies that began when NBC demanded that YouTube remove hundreds of clips, including "Saturday Night Live"'s "Lazy Sunday" video.

But many TV networks remain wary of user-created video. For instance, Hearst-Argyle Television, which owns or manages 28 local TV stations around the country, doesn't yet include user-generated video on any of its stations' companion sites. "What we're all about is professionally produced local video," said Hearst-Argyle spokesman Tom Campo. "That gives us a very strong advantage on the Web and is a very strong traffic driver." He said many of the sites are the highest or second-highest-rated local sites in their markets. Nevertheless, Campo said the company is looking at ways it might incorporate video-sharing into its local TV sites.

Kevin Abramson, director of marketing for Internet Broadcasting--which helps to run about 80 local TV sites for eight major media companies including Hearst and McGraw Hill--said other station owners are similarly leery. "They're looking and trying to see how best to integrate user content with the material their journalists are posting on the sites," he said.

Borrell noted that local newspapers appear to be more adventurous than TV stations when it comes to experimenting with user-generated video, based on preliminary findings from research his firm is pursuing on Web video advertising in local markets. "Now that newspapers have these very large Web sites, it gives them an opportunity to go after the TV competitor in the local market," he said.

Drew Salamone, interactive promotions manager for NBC10, said he was pleased with the response to the new video-sharing service. About 40 summer-themed videos have been posted so far, and the site will add pet-related and humorous viral videos to the site in the coming weeks, said Salamone. To upload and edit videos, users must first register for a free Motionbox account through the NBC10 site.

Salamone said NBC10 is screening all videos submitted to prevent inappropriate or potentially copyright-infringing material from going up on the site. He added that NBCU is planning to institute a central clearing process to vet user-generated video sent to all of the sites run by its owned stations.

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