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Northwest Cable News launches

January 1, 1996

Retrans channel to meet regional news need, say executives.

By Jim McConville
Broadcasting & Cable

The Pacific Northwest has become the latest region of the country to get a 24-hour regional cable news network with the Dec. 18, 1995, launch of Northwest Cable News (NWCN).

NWCN, owned by King Broadcasting (whose parent is the Providence Journal Company), serves cable subscribers in Oregon, Washington and parts of Idaho and plans to extend its coverage farther north and east.

The network draws on the resources of its four owned TV stations—KGW Portland, Ore.; KREM-TV Spokane and KING-TV Seattle, both Washington; and KTVB Boise, Idaho—which serve as bureaus and provide news feeds into its Seattle headquarters.

NWCN, the country’s 10th regional all-news channel, is the first such network to employ the Avid digital news-gathering system, which uses network nonlinear editors and servers to speed newsgathering and delivery.

NWCN launched with 100 employes, including eight field reporters. Its news reports are updated every two hours, with a fresh hour airing four times a day.

King Broadcasting, with an estimated $5 million invested in the new network, expects to turn an operating operations and technical support profit in 2000.

So far the network is carried by 55 cable systems in its tri-state region, including MSOs Tele-Communications Inc. (21 systems), Falcon Cable (eight systems), Century Cable and Viacom (four each). NWCN officials say the network has secured 1.1 million households and expects to reach 1.8 million by the end of 1996.

“It’s simply a matter of channel capacity, and we already have those agreements in place,” says Craig Marrs, general manager, NWCN. “It’s a matter of just waiting [for] cable operators to develop enough capacity to put us on.”

NWCN is the by-product of the company’s retransmission consent negotiations, which opened up a second cable channel for its four TV stations.

The network plans to expand its region. It has an agreement in principle with KIMA-TV Yakima, Wash., to cover the northeast corner of the state. The network also is working on deals in Medford and Eugene, both Oregon, and is talking with BCTV Vancouver to provide news coverage in British Columbia.

Ironically, a delay in NWCN’s original 1993 launch date allowed the network to install Avid Technology’s state-of-the-art nonlinear news reader. The system records sound and pictures on a central video server that allows editors to manipulate material at desk-top monitors, then play it back directly from the server.

“It gives us a very quick turnaround with the material and allows us to produce a lot of variations very easily,” says Brian Lay, director of operations and technical support for KING-TV.

Marrs says the network fills a void in the region’s TV news coverage. “We aren’t competing against the local broadcasters or against the CNNs of the world,” he says. “There’s a need for a regional application of news that is simply unmet.”

Monday, January 1, 1996

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