Denver TV stations share ENG chopper

February 9, 2009

In a move being seen across the country designed to save cost, Denver, CO-based televisions stations KMGH-DT (the ABC affiliate) and KUSA-DT (the local NBC station) have agreed to share a news helicopter for traffic reports and coverage of breaking news stories Until now, the stations have maintained their own choppers.

The two network affiliates — branded as 7News and 9News — began sharing the chopper and videographers who ride aboard it on Feb. 1, while continuing to maintain strict separation of each station’s editorial decisions and reporter assignments.

“Equipment sharing is not necessarily a new idea but this is a new type of pooling resources to allow both stations to provide extensive news coverage from the air,” KMGH general manager Byron Grandy said in a statement. “You will see other stations following the lead of 9News and 7News as a way to control costs while providing more extensive news coverage.”

“Obviously there is an economic benefit to flying one helicopter and it’s not unlike sharing pool footage of a political event,” Mark Cornetta, general manager at KUSA. “Our news departments will each maintain their complete independence, while sharing the use of our most effective newsgathering tool.”

Stations in other markets have reached agreements to share helicopter expenses, like in Philadelphia, where the local Fox (WTXF-TV) and NBC (WCAU-TV) stations there have agreed to share resources because the Fox stations airs its newscast an hour earlier than NBC.

Meanwhile in Scranton, PA, WNEP-TV has decided for economic reasons to end its aerial coverage using its Skycam 16 chopper, after more than two decades of broadcasting live images from the skies of the state’s Northeast region.

The station's president, Chuck Morgan, speaking to the local “Times Tribune” newspaper said, “In today’s economy, the helicopter has become a luxury we can’t afford.”

Also, Skycam 16 pilot Randy Freeman has been laid off after eight years with WNEP.

“Like news stations and newspapers, our viewers are out there ... feeding us with video and Wi-Fi,” Morgan said. “We are able to get things right back in [to the newsroom].”

Skycam 16 reportedly cost the station more than $400 an hour to keep in the air.

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