A countdown is about to begin. NBC News is getting ready to launch a special report on space that could also serve to illustrate how the NBCUniversal unit intends to enter an increasingly competitive effort by TV-news operations to deliver streaming-video reports to a broader range of consumers.
Simone Boyce, a former reporter for KTLA in Los Angeles and a host at Mic, will anchor what the news operation is calling a “digital special” this Friday at 4 p.m. NBC won’t break into regular Friday-afternoon programming to present “Space is Awesome.” Instead, Boyce will hold forth at NBCNews.com/Space and various broadband outlets with a report timed to the total lunar eclipse slated to be available for view in most parts of the world (except North America and the Arctic) this Friday.
NBC News Digital says the special is part of its previously announced intention to experiment with programming for a streaming news network. Boyce is a new host for the network, which now has two executive producers: Christine Cataldi, formerly co-executive producer at NBC’s “Megyn Kelly Today,” and Erica Fink, a supervising producer at CNN who had been overseeing “Mostly Human,” a digital-video series focused on technology. NBC News has indicated it would like to launch the streaming-video effort in full before the end of 2018. Executives intend to use the summer and part of the fall to test different programming models with viewers and cultivate feedback, NBC News Digital senior vice president Nick Ascheim told Variety earlier this month.
The company faces a challenge. Live-streamed programming can reach a growing audience using mobile screens to gain access to video and information, but NBCUniversal also operates a cable-news network. MSNBC, with ratings that have soared since the 2016 presidential election. The new-tech effort can’t steal audience from the more traditional one. And NBC won’t be able to replicate MSNBC programming without offending its cable and satellite distributors, who count on anchors like Joe Scarborough and Rachel Maddow to drive subscriptions.
NBC News Digital has been staffing up for the project in recent weeks. In addition to Cataldi and Fink, the unit has named Katie Yu, an NBC News senior producer, to the same title at the new operation. Brittany Terrell, a segment producer, has been hired from Cheddar. Timor Balaish, a segment producer, has been hired from CBSN. The hosts from NBC News’ daily Snapchat show, “Stay Tuned,” Savannah Sellers, Gadi Schwartz and Lawrence Jackson, are expected to have roles at the streaming-video network as well.
“Space is Awesome” will offer history and popular culture. A panel of scientists will discuss why the eclipse occurs, and Boyce, the host, will interview female astrophysicists and professors based at Princeton University about how they are pressing forward in an industry often dominated by men. Guests will discuss President Trump’s “Space Force” proposal and the future of American space travel. In another segment, Justin Chapple, the culinary director for “Food & Wine,” will taste and discuss space food.