KIRO Adds Alexa To Its News Team

SEATTLE—CBS affiliate KIRO is collaborating with its neighbor Amazon to be one of the first TV stations in the country to provide video flash briefings for Amazon’s new Echo Show device, making Alexa an official part of its news offerings.

The new Amazon Echo Show adds video capabilities to the Alexa-enabled device.

KIRO already had experience with Alexa-enabled devices, providing audio flash briefings for the Echo and Dot. Using their anchors, the station would create audio clips to report the latest news and weather. But when the station heard about the Echo Show it immediately jumped on the opportunity to do what it knew best.

“We’re better at video than we are at audio because we’re a TV station,” said Jake Milstein, news director for KIRO. “In some ways, creating the original audio flash briefings for us was more out of our comfort zones than doing a video flash briefing.”

The video flash briefings are done by KIRO’s primary production team, including the anchors. Running between a minute and a half and two minutes, the station produces four a day during the week and two over the weekend.

According to News Operations Manager Deb Adeogba, the production doesn’t differ that much from a normal news broadcast, save for changing up shots to properly fit the Echo Show screen. The finished production file is then sent to the device like the station is uploading a video podcast. Echo Show users access the updates with the simple question, “Alexa, what’s the news?”

The project is part of KIRO’s overall mission to provide its news services to its viewers on any platform. Larger news networks, including Reuters, ABC News, NBC News, People, Bloomberg, CNBC and CNN have also begun creating video flash briefings for Echo Show and other local news stations are also beginning to get in on the new tech, including NBC 4 New York and KNTV Channel 13 Las Vegas.

Additional features of the Echo Show include touch screen capabilities and a curated list of trending topics, which users can access through the voice command “learn more” to hear full synopsis from an attributed news source.

Milstein hopes that the flash briefings will pique viewers’ interest to get more details from the televised newscasts but hopes that one day they could skip that extra step.

“One thing that has never gone away is the desire for people to get live news,” Milstein explained. Streaming live broadcasts is a key constraint that currently exists with the Echo Show. “I hope there’s a ramp up here with Amazon where we can do more live things and then let people know what is going on from device to device so that they can get the news the way they want to get the news.”

The audio flash briefings on the Echo device received praise from KIRO viewers, according to Milstein, and there is an expectation that the same will occur with the new video briefings with the Echo Show. However, as consumers are making the transition to the Echo Show device, feedback has been minimum. KIRO has received positive feedback from other stations under the Cox Media Group banner asking about their process in producing the video briefings.