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First Take: I like it, but it needs some adjustment.
KBCW/KPIX debuted their highly anticipated ‘Nightbeat’ 10pm newscast on Monday to compete with KTVU’s ’10 O’Clock News’ ratings juggernaut. And boy, was it interesting. It’s a fresh take on what a 10pm newscast could be, but it’s missing a few key elements.
KPIX has a duopoly in the market with KBCW, much like the relationship between KTVU and KICU. However, no local television station has been able to break KTVU’s decades-long prominence at 10pm. That forces every other station in the market to air their late newscasts at 11pm. KPIX thinks they’ve got a different way to approach this problem.
Nightbeat (not to be confused with the Nightbeat newscast the late Pete Wilson anchored at KRON in the 90’s) is billed as a newscast for a younger demographic. It’s airing on KCBW but produced by KPIX. Not much was known about how the show would be structured. But, personally speaking, I did have a few ideas on what we’d probably see.
Being on KPIX’s sister CW station, I figured producers would have free reign to shape the identity of the newscast. Knowing this show would be aimed towards younger viewers, I fully expected flashy graphics, quick cuts, dramatic camera angles, and utilization of many different parts of the news set.
What Actually Happened
Two of those four expectations were met. We got the flashy graphics and quick cuts, but not much else. Viewers saw anchor Veronica De La Cruze close up for most of the show and often in a two-box graphic.
The newscast was heavy on celebrity news, viral videos, and light stories. It felt like it would belong at a noon or mid-afternoon time slot. Additionally, there was some additional added context to stories that aired in previous newscasts.
There was very little music, transitions, nor breaks between stories. Tossing and glad-handing was nowhere to be seen nor heard. Banter, however, was plentiful.
A sense of tempered urgency and consistent pacing was missing. The show seemed rushed for no reason and lacked regard for delineating one story from another. How about throwing in some stingers and more graphic transitions. Maybe take a pause or introducing a co-anchor into the mix.
Camera angles should be fresh and reset often. Let’s move from the desk, to the studio stand-up, to the magical illustration board, to the couch. With a co-anchor, resetting the shot and keeping pace would be easy, just like passing a baton.
Even better, get a panel of folks with varying personalities. Sure, let’s start off in the A-block with hard news. But if we’re looking for entertainment value here, I’d value hearing from some cultural commentators later in the show. Let’s have a social media coordinator on stage. Let’s play with new ways on integrating what’s being said online with what’s happening in the studio (don’t underestimate the allure of vanity for viewers in trying to get on air). After all, a Twitter live chat is the modern day equivalent to appointment television, right?
Not to mention, this is a great opportunity to turn the show into a farm league of sorts. Test out new reporters, new storytelling methods, etc. Given the turnover in local media, such an arrangement would help this CBS O&O station’s staffing situation greatly.
Ultimately, the stories that Nightbeat is showing aren’t fresh. They have already been viewed by office workers slacking off during their final hour of work. Where the newscast can excel is by creating a unique take, spin, or added-value to these stories.
I like the risk KPIX took to create this newscast. And I have a lot of faith in what Veronica De La Cruz is doing, unlike some of the critics out there. I hope the station continues to experiment with format, segments, personnel, identity, etc. until they get the mix right. Frankly, there’s no rush.
Check it out: at Nightbeat.tv or at 10pm on KBCW (Ch. 44/ Cable 12) in the Bay Area.