Peacock crows over new palace for NBC5/Telemundo39
10/11/13 11:47 AM
By ED BARK
@unclebarkycom on Twitter
In TV terms, NBC5 staffers soon will be the Jeffersons movin’ on up or the Clampetts loadin’ up the truck for a move to Beverly -- Hills, that is.
Left behind: the only home the station has ever known at 3900 Barnett St. in Fort Worth. The outmoded property has housed WBAP/KXAS/NBC5 since the 1948 sign-on. It will be deeded back to the city after NBC5, sister station Telemundo39 and a variety of other NBC Universal-owned businesses relocate to The Studios at DFW. The 75,000 square foot, state-of-the-art complex is located five minutes from the south entrance to DFW International Airport on 4805 Amon Carter Boulevard.
“It’s light years ahead of it,” vice president of news Susan Tully says of the new home compared to the old, creaky homestead.
“They’re dead,” vice president of programming and research Brian Hocker volunteers when a group of high-level tour guides is asked whether rival stations will be technological “dinosaurs” in comparison. “This is really the first facility built for the technology of today,” he says.
Last week’s preview tour begins with NBC5 president-general manager Tom Ehlmann saying modestly, “We’re pretty proud to show this thing off.”
For competitive reasons, no pictures are allowed of the new news sets for NBC5 and Telemundo39, each of which is 2,600 square feet. But The Studios at DFW otherwise are fair game, whether it’s the Peacock Cafe, a physical fitness center with private showers or conference rooms named after Amon Carter and two evergreen news personalities, meteorologist Harold Taft and entertainment reporter Bobbie Wygant, who’s still a contributor.
The first newscasts from the new emporium are scheduled for late October or early November. Ehlmann says the goal from the start of this four-year walkup to the main event has been to be fully operative no later than 90 days before the first day of NBC’s Winter Olympics telecasts, which begin on Feb. 7th
Matt Varney, vice president of technology for NBC5/Telemundo39, says the new building “at its core is a big empty box.” This allows for continual reconfiguring and revamping to keep pace with whatever new technology breezes in.
“Our No. 1 success metric is, ‘Is it faster? Is it easier to do your job?’ “ Varney says.
The relocation also will bring an end to NBC’s Dallas offices, with the entire operation to be consolidated under one roof within 17 miles of both the Dallas and Fort Worth downtowns. Unlike competitor WFAA8’s Victory Park Studios, there will be no opportunities for adjacent outdoor shots featuring prospective viewers and community groups. That’s because The Studios at DFW are located in a noisy flight path, Ehlmann says. But employees within the sound-proofed facility “will never hear an airplane,” Tully adds.
Crystal clear high-definition monitors are seemingly everywhere, prompting Varney to note, “Boy, do we like monitors. Every shape and size.”
But a staple of old-school TV -- the venerable “green screen” used during weather reports -- will remain in place even though Ehlmann says the technology exists to phase it out.
“Weather is what we do. And the viewer’s best experience with weather is still the green screen,” Tully says.
Consultants for all of D-FW’s news stations also say that climate ups and downs continue to be viewer catnip. Once relegated to regular weather segments, forecasts of heavy drizzles now regularly lead the news. It’s another reason why designers “wanted to focus on weather and build a news set around that,” Tully says. “So this is our tribute to David Finfrock” (Taft’s hand-picked successor, who has announced he’ll be retiring in May 2018).
Employees were asked for their input throughout the design process, executives emphasize. The in-house fitness center is one of the tangible results. There’s also a spacious but homey cafe and offices with glass fronts to somewhat level the playing field between management and minions.
“There’s no hiding behind walls,” Varney says.
The cost of all this is steep but not for public consumption. “I’d prefer not to talk about that,” Ehlmann says affably.
Ideally, the spanking new look will pay off with bigger audiences for both NBC5 and Telemundo39. For now, though, the long-anticipated move from Shanty Town to Shangri-La is a big lift for all concerned. Here are a few more pictures of what’s in store:
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