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Ross Video Team Apr 27, 2020 1:25:46 PM

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Living Live Podcast: How TV Stations Can Differentiate Their Election Coverage


On this episode of Living Live with Ross Video, host Tyler Kern was joined by Jim Doyle, Ross Video Director of Creative Services.

Many TV stations deliver round-the-clock, well-produced live productions on Election Day – after all, it’s one of the biggest live production days of the year, and presidential races only heighten that interest.

But how can these stations ensure their offering is differentiated from the countless other options presented to viewers?
Ross Video’s Creative and Professional Services initiative, Rocket Surgery, gives TV stations a way to access innovative and cutting-edge solutions to captivate audiences and set productions apart.

Rocket Surgery offers graphic design in virtual reality and more, graphics integration with Ross Video platforms like XPression, virtual productions that leverage virtual reality and more, augmented reality and VR sets, and dashboard workflow design. In election coverage, specifically, Doyle said preparation is perhaps the most critical factor.

“Primarily, preparation is important because, for a lot of TV stations, election coverage becomes their benchmark. It’s the thing that they measure their performance by,” he said. “Given that, if you’re a U.S. TV station, you know that you’re going to have a lot of viewers. … Why wouldn’t you plan ahead and plan early?

“Most of all, I like to start working with my customers as early as possible, so that we can come up with more creative ways to display your election data and your results data and really push the envelope.”

Essentially, Doyle said, the more lead time, the greater the ability to leverage innovative technologies like augmented reality to tell an in-depth, engaging story that goes beyond traditional election coverage.

AUTHOR: Tyler Kern
CONTRIBUTOR: Jim Doyle

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Podcast Transcript

Tyler Kern:

Elections are massive events for television news stations as so many eyeballs are on them, waiting for results, waiting for information, that TV stations need to find ways to differentiate themselves in this realm. And joining me to talk about that today is Jim Doyle. He's the director of creative services at Rocket Surgery for Ross Video Creative And Professional Services. Jim, thank you so much for joining me today.

Jim Doyle:

Thank you for having me.

Tyler Kern:

Absolutely. That is quite a title that you have. Kind of tell me a little bit more about Ross Video's creative and professional services division. And talk to me about the growth in that particular area, just to get us started,

Jim Doyle:

Rocket Surgery has been a part of Ross now for five years. In fact, it's almost five years to the day that Rocket Surgery was purchased by Ross and acquired. In that amount of time, we've seen a tremendous amount of the growth not only in revenue and in our capabilities, but also in the actual physical size of the operation. When we started, it was basically four or five of us and today we have 25 people spread out all over the world. We're a decentralized organization. We all work from home and onsite with our customers. So we're very flexible.

Jim Doyle:

The company has grown tremendously, about 35% year over year. We've grown to offer a whole variety of services. So we're actually into five different service segments now. One of them being graphic design. We have a number of designers on staff that design custom graphic packages and virtual reality. We also have graphics integration. So let's say for instance that you have a graphic package that you want to get onto one of our platforms such as Expression. We can actually handle that integration for you.

Jim Doyle:

We have another arm called RSVP. It's Rocket Surgery Virtual Productions. Within RSVP, we actually design and air virtual productions for a number of customers. Our biggest being Sunday Night Football. We actually handle all the virtual reality for Sunday Night Football on NBC. We also have our virtual set and augmented reality group. So for a whole host of customers, we design virtual sets and then implement them all over the world. And then finally we have our newest group. It's called Triggering In Control. And largely we're working within the Ross dashboard ecosphere. So we're designing dashboard workflows for a whole host of customers using both Ross gear and third party devices. So that's in a nutshell what Rocket Surgery has come to be these days.

Tyler Kern:

Wow, that's incredible just to see the growth in this particular area. And today we're talking about elections and election coverage. It's an interesting topic. And one of the themes that comes up every time I've talked elections is preparation. That preparation is really key. Preparing early and being ready for the night of, because it's just such a big night. So many viewers, so many people looking for information. Walk me through why preparation is so important for television news stations.

Jim Doyle:

Primarily, preparation is important because for a lot of TV stations, election coverage becomes their benchmark. It's the thing that they measure their performance by. So, given that, if you're a US TV station that you're going to have a lot of viewers, it's going to be possibly your biggest audience outside of maybe Superbowl coverage for the year, why wouldn't you plan ahead and plan early? Most of all, I like to start working with my customers as early as possible so that we can come up with more creative ways to display your election data, your results data, and really push the envelope. Elections are a great place to create sort of a new standard, if you will, for the production quality of your TV station.

Jim Doyle:

That said, waiting till the 11th hour does limit what you're capable of getting on the air and getting ready. So I always encouraged TV stations and networks to plan as far ahead as they possibly can for an election. And I do have a number of customers that approach us a year, year and a half out to start talking about what they want their coverage to look like. And given that kind of timeframe, it's amazing the things that we've been able to pull off.

Tyler Kern:

Absolutely. I think there's a temptation to view election coverage simply as just reading facts and figures and citing numbers. But really this is an opportunity for some incredible storytelling, right? And some ways to get creative, to present this information in new and exciting ways and to really tell the story on the air. How can stations do a better job of storytelling and presenting this information in unique ways?

Jim Doyle:

One of the ways that we've had a lot of success is in virtual reality and augmented reality. Presenting the data, and let's face it, I mean, elections really are talking about data in new and creative ways. We've had a lot of success in the augmented reality. So imagine taking, say for instance that you could do an augmented map of the United States and you can pull data out of different states and out of different counties and things within the counties. Display comparisons, display demographic data if you have access to that. You can tell a real story within the context of those demographics beyond just mere election results. Augmented reality is a great way of really bringing something new and different to your newscasts. And frankly we're seeing a lot of growth in AR, both in news, sports and weather areas as well. Elections, it's just a perfect fit, especially when you're describing things like balance of power and how things are changing in the House and the Senate or in your local state House and your local Senate. Those are great stories to be able to tell using that kind of technology.

Tyler Kern:

Right. Absolutely. And obviously this all goes back to preparation and to having these conversations will in advance, but how can you help your customers, your clients, the people that come to you and ask, "Hey, we want to do something unique," how do you work with them to help meet their goals and to help determine what's important to them and help them pull that off when it comes to election night?

Jim Doyle:

First thing we'll do is we'll do a deep dive with them. We want to find out what is key in their market, what's going to be big about that particular election, as compared to the standard election things. and then build a show, a virtual show perhaps or a graphical show around that to make sure that they are able to tell that story effectively. And that may be a combination of things. That may be a combination of the on-air graphics package combined with virtual reality and augmented reality. But moreover, we can create basically monitoring and control systems using Ross's dashboard platform that will enable them to monitor and track election results as they come in in real time. And then give them the ability to take those important stories and those important races to air. So starting with a deep dive, figuring out what's most important and building a show around that is the best way to do it. So we work very closely with our customers to find out what their interests really are.

Tyler Kern:

And then one of the things that I'm curious about is just how you're able to customize solutions depending on the capabilities of particular stations. Right? So you could work with the largest national news agency in the country or even a small local station that they might not have the same resources. Can you still work across that vast scale to make sure that every station is able to achieve their goals when it comes to election coverage?

Jim Doyle:

Absolutely, we can. Especially using all of the power of the Ross platforms, we know how to get the most out of them better than anybody else. I mean, our real competitive advantage is the fact that we have direct input into the development of the system with the developers. So we can help big stations, networks, small stations do things that nobody's ever seen before. In fact, we've done a lot of benchmark stuff in small markets. And we have a good track record there. And I'll be honest with you, it's not just limited to US elections. I mean, we've done elections in Botswana and been able to dazzle those markets as well. So we know that we can help just about any TV station pull off a network level of coverage.

Tyler Kern:

So you mentioned AR and just the various ways that augmented reality and other kind of tech advances have brought new tools and kind of new ways to tell stories into election coverage. Are there any other emerging technologies that you're excited about that you think can really amplify and elevate election coverage?

Jim Doyle:

Probably some of the biggest changes that we've seen and some of the biggest developments we've seen is the access to data and the manipulation of data. And when I say manipulation, I don't necessarily mean changing the data to show something. What I mean is our ability to shape the data, to present something in a new and unique way. And that's what we specialize in. We are a real time graphics company. We're not working in post-production. And so being able to leverage these kind of unique data feeds and even working with different governments to set up unique data fees to provide unique data points that other people may not have can help a TV station to own the market, if you will, for a particular election.

Tyler Kern:

You mentioned earlier just making sure that you prepare and you begin that preparation process as early as possible. And for some stations that might mean preparing at the last minute, just based on their realities. Do you have solutions that could fit their needs as well, that could come in and are almost ready made solutions that can be plugged in that can help them still pull off great election coverage?

Jim Doyle:

Well, I'm not here to really push my resume, but I had a background in broadcast television for over 25 years. And one of the things that I always noticed about TV stations, particularly when I ran MGFX, which was a centralized graphic operation for a TV group, was the number of stations that really didn't have the time or the budget to plan that far ahead. And for those stations, I always made sure that I kept some high level election packages sitting around ready to be deployed.

Jim Doyle:

I've done the same thing here at Rocket Surgery. We have a number of off the shelf solutions that can be deployed literally within a few days notice and be ready for air that are quite remarkable to look at, have some really fascinating functionality built into them. Things like responsive tickers that react to other graphics on the screen and things that you don't typically see in a standard broadcast news package. And we're developing more right now. Within the next month or so, I should be announcing some new packages to be available. So you'll be able to come to us and say, "Hey, I'm in a bind. I need an election package. I'm budget challenged. I need to get it done quickly, and I need it to look really, really good." Well, we're going to have we have that and we're going to have more of it for our customer to choose from. All they have to do is just reach out.

Tyler Kern:

Absolutely. Well, that's Jim Doyle. Jim, thank you so much for joining me today and talking a little bit more about election coverage, the advancements of everything going on in this area, and how you're providing solutions for news stations.

Jim Doyle:

Thank you so much for your time and I appreciate the opportunity to talk about it.

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