Local TV news station WRCB-TV3 News debuted a new, half-million dollar studio set this week after about 18 months of planning and renovating.
The set upgrade is just one step in a years-long process to upgrade WRCB-TV's programming to high-definition, said president and general manager Tom Tolar.
During the last eight years, the local NBC-affiliate station has transformed to present both syndicated programming and newscasts in HD -- a switch that required millions of dollars in equipment and cameras.
"Then having done all those things, the next step was to put up a new set that was specifically designed not only to upgrade the look of the station, but also to be shown in HD," Tolar said.
All three local news stations in Chattanooga offer newscasts in HD, and WRCB's closest competitor, WTVC News Channel 9, finished a complete remodel of its own set in early 2013.
The upgrade at Channel 3 adds new, state-of-the-art lighting as well as fresh graphics and news desks. The set was designed in San Diego and installed by local workers, and Tolar expects the final price to be close to $560,000.
"In comparison to the old set, this one is four times more versatile," Tolar said. "It uses all of our studio."
Throughout the upgrade, WRCB Channel 3 stayed neck-and-neck with WTVC News Channel 9 as far as viewers and ratings, even pulling ahead of News Channel 9 by a smidgen in most categories in the February Nielsen ratings -- a bump driven by both NBC's Olympics coverage and the area's wintry weather.
Mike Costa, general manager at News Channel 9, said he's not worried about WRCB's February lead.
"They got the benefit of some Olympic viewing," he said. "To really get the best measure of who is performing the strongest in any market, you need an average of how the station performed over the last year."
He added that he thinks the stations will continue to closely compete.
"This is a very competitive news market and Chattanooga is very fortunate to have two very strong stations," he said.
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