NBCUniversal’s local TV division is taking a new tack to reach younger audiences that don’t tune in to its traditional newscasts.
On Monday, NBCU’s 42-station local TV group is launching LX — a digital news brand that will produce original content for online distribution and, in 2020, via a live-streaming internet network and multicast over-the-air channel. The content is aimed at millennials and Gen Z’ers, who are looking for emotionally resonant local stories that help them feel connected to their communities, said Valari Staab, president, NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations.
“We’re wrestling with how to connect with audiences that don’t watch local linear [TV] news,” said Staab (pictured above). The project has been in the works for about two years, and builds on digital-news experiments and research by NBCU individual stations, Staab said.
LX stands for “Local X,” with the “X” supposed to signify an “exponential” ability to deliver new types of storytelling. NBCU’s station group adapted the name from its separately operated LX.TV Productions, a producer of weekly lifestyle programs and specials, which it acquired in 2008; that unit creates programming for NBC/Telemundo owned stations as well as the Cozi TV and TeleXitos multicast networks, and will contribute to the new LX service.
“We realized we were going to need a different brand to tap into people who decided that local news, as it existed in our markets, wasn’t what they wanted,” Staab said. LX will be “a place that younger audiences can go to watch stories that are about them, and get the background about complex issues happening in their own backyard, but still walk away feeling inspired.”
LX news stories are launching Sept. 23 on YouTube (at youtube.com/NBCLX), on lx.com and across social-media networks. Initial segments include a story about urban farming in Dallas; a look at a surfing program for black women in Venice, Calif.; and a profile of Irene Li, a young female Asian chef who launched a successful restaurant in Boston without any experience or training.
Then, in April 2020, LX is scheduled to debut as an over-the-air and streaming network with live programming blocks. Currently, the plan is to have a pair of three-hour daily newscasts produced out of NBCU’s KXAS station in Dallas (7-10 a.m. and 7-10 p.m.). The division is looking to license programming to fill out the other dayparts. “It’s not all going to be news. We are looking for anything we think will resonate with that audience,” said Staab.
Staab and her team picked Dallas as home base for LX’s live production “to put this newsroom in the middle of the country,” she said. LX also will have staff members based across the country embedded in all its newsrooms, including its Telemundo stations, and will tap into stations’ existing news teams as well. After the initial launch with one main LX feed, the long-term goal is for each NBCU local station to have its own LX broadcast starting with New York and L.A.
When LX’s linear digital and over-the-air feed launches, it will carry fewer and shorter commercial breaks, with a maximum ad load of 10 minutes per hour, according to Staab.
Also next April, NBCU is planning to launch Peacock, its new entertainment streaming service. Staab said it’s coincidental that LX set the same timeframe for its linear network launch but added that her group is in talks with Peacock about distributing the local-news product.
The management team overseeing LX includes Meredith McGinn, senior VP of NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations’ multicast division (which includes Cozi TV); Matt Goldberg, VP of content strategy for LX, who is based in New York and previously was KNBC’s assistant news director; and Meagan Harris, managing editor for LX, based in Dallas, who previously was news director of Tegna-owned NBC affiliate WTLV in Jacksonville, Fla.
NBCU Owned Television Stations already has hired several other journalists for LX and plans to ramp up hiring ahead of the linear network launch next spring.
LX’s team of “visual storyteller” journalists include: Chase Cain in L.A., previously with Hulu as a creative video producer creating digital-native stories about original series; Ngozi Ekeledo in Boston, formerly a studio host and reporter for the Big Ten Network in Chicago; Clark Fouraker in Dallas, with over a decade of experience working in local TV newsrooms; Bianca Graulau in Miami, a bilingual journalist most recently with Worldly News; and Alexa Liautaud in New York City, who joined LX from Vice Media’s “Vice News Tonight” where she worked out of the Washington, D.C., news bureau.