WKMG-TV bursts with livestream content during Fourth of July broadcast blowout

In an unprecedented digital and broadcast event, WKMG-TV News 6 produced more than 100 hours of livestream content for ClickOrlando.com during the station’s annual coverage of the Lake Eola “Fireworks at the Fountain” on July 4.

This online streaming project harnessed live video from more than 25 different camera angles and sources, allowing online viewers to be in the “Director’s Chair” and select from the variety of angles, including the first-ever streams directly from mobile phones of reporters and producers in the field.

The WKMG-TV News 6 coverage of the fireworks was a test event for demonstrating new live technologies as part of VIDEO 2020, Graham Media Group’s Total Video Transformation project that aims to reduce the complexity required for reporters and other content producers to publish video content and to reach their audiences faster with meaningful content. Throughout VIDEO 2020, Graham Media Group has collaborated with several partners including Google and YouTube, Amazon Web Services, The Washington Post’s Arc Publishing and Grabyo to leverage technologies born outside of the traditional broadcasting ecosystem to create and produce video livestreams.

One of the new technologies debuted at this event was Broadcast, a first-of-its-kind mobile app that allows journalists to stream high-quality, live video to multiple sites and social platforms simultaneously. The Washington Post’s Arc Publishing worked closely with the Graham Media Group team to develop this powerful application.

“It allows me to deploy my staff in ways I never could before,” said News 6 News Director Allison McGinley of the new Broadcast app. “Leveraging this technology in breaking news situations -- when minutes count -- will allow News 6 to get critical information to our viewers much faster and more efficiently. Now everybody in my newsroom is a reporter.”

The News 6 newsroom dedicated dozens of people to the event with new technology, producing a 10-hour, digital-first broadcast for the ClickOrlando.com website and mobile app and News 6 OTT app (available on Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and more).

Twelve reporters were located around Lake Eola utilizing the Broadcast application to gather live shots for the full event. The engineering and IT team set up cameras to feed additional angles during the event, including a wide-angle barge cam where the fireworks were set up and a 360-degree camera to allow viewers to turn the direction of their view.

"It’s amazing where things are going," said News 6 anchor and reporter Matt Austin. "We normally work in this big technology hub with control rooms, servers and studios. Turns out we can do nearly the same thing on location! The future of news is mind blowing," said Austin, who went live from his mobile device multiple times during the event.

Up to 17 simultaneous livestreams were all ingested into cloud-based AWS Media Services and were available for the audience to watch while they were live, essentially allowing viewers to choose their own adventure in watching the fireworks. Additionally, a digital-only broadcast was produced from laptops at the event.

“The technology and platforms that we are using are useful in coverage of big events, but to us they represent the future of how local news is going to be covered,” said WKMG general manager and Vice President Jeff Hoffman. “In a breaking news situation, for instance, you really want to dedicate as many resources as you can to covering the story. These enabling technologies will give our viewers a real-time comprehensive experience. This is the index of our possibilities in covering local news.”

This event was made possible by a Google News Initiative YouTube Funding Grant. These grants were issued to help newsrooms and publishers strengthen their online video capabilities and experiment with new formats for video journalism.

“Being able to push the boundaries of how our newsrooms can cover their communities is the real benefit of having a partner like Google assisting us in this livestream project. The grant has allowed us to experiment inside of this overall project and accelerate getting the final products in the hands our newsroom and reporters,” said Catherine Badalamente, VP and chief innovation officer for Graham Media Group. “Having our reporters in the field with the ability to send video anywhere in the world supports our core mission at Graham Media Group. With partners like Google, AWS, The Washington Post/Arc Publishing and Grabyo, we have a clear line of sight into the future of how journalists will serve their communities.”

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