Fresco Takes Video Reins At Alaska Station

By TVNewsCheck on April 24, 2017

Fresco, an upstart platform that connects news organizations with “citizen journalists” for video content, is taking over the bulk of video production for Anchorage, Alaska’s KTBY. The station’s COO projects up to 40% cost savings — including from layoffs — in making the move.
By: Michael Depp

In Alaska, even versatile young multimedia journalists (MMJs) need to watch their backs amid a cheaper newsroom alternative now.

Anchorage-based Coastal Television, whose KTBY Anchorage (DMA 147) Fox affiliate covers Juneau (DMA 207) as well, is turning to “citizen journalist” video platform Fresco to handle the bulk of its video assignments through outsourcing going forward, a move Fresco trumpeted at the NAB Show today.

The company’s COO says the collaboration with Fresco will save 35%-40% in costs over the coming year. It will get there by enabling staff reductions of 40% along with additional savings on equipment costs.

KTBY isn’t entirely gutting its newsroom to do so, though its MMJs are most immediately in the crosshairs. COO Scott Centers says anchors, meteorologists and sports staff will all stay on board, along with the prospective hiring of a couple of new writers and editors. News events that require more journalistic expertise — say, coverage of a governor’s press coverage, for example — will stay in staffers’ hands.

But after a 10-month relationship with Fresco, Centers says the vendor has proved its ability to produce broadcast-quality video repeatedly. The clincher was the platform’s handling of the Iditarod dog sled race in March, a race that culminates in rural Nome and normally costs the newsroom about $3,000 to get a reporter in for the coverage.

Fresco was able to play matchmaker between KTBY and three separate contributors at the race’s end, all of whose footage the station was able to stitch together into a package without sending anyone to the scene.

“When you watch the story, you would have no idea that it wasn’t one of our reporters,” Centers says.

For its part, Fresco is adamant that its video isn’t categorizable as “user-generated content,” which CEO John Meyer says is “taken most of the time by total amateurs.”

Meyer likens Fresco’s contributors, who now total some 130,000 according to Fresco, as closer to a TV crew, having been vetted, on boarded and trained by the platform as part of the service it offers (Fresco currently has 15 broadcast clients, it says).

More seasoned platform contributors are also outfitted with accessories like tripods, stabilizers and microphones to augment the smartphones most use to capture their footage, Meyer says.

And across the state, Centers says Fresco has been able to recruit enough contributors to cover every assignment need the station has requested so far. “Even into the rural areas we’ve been able to receive content,” he says.

KTBY runs its own broadcast and social media campaigns to help in the recruitment effort.

For their part, Fresco contributors receive an unspecified monetary compensation along with on-screen credit for their videos.

Centers sees this system working well beyond his own sparsely-populated DMA, especially as newsrooms turn ever more to social media as a content mine.

“It’s not a turnkey solution, but it will be about 60%-65% of the newscast,” he says.