Courter: WTVC fine-tuning its sports coverage

Courter: WTVC fine-tuning its sports coverage

December 30th, 2011 by Barry Courter in Chattnow Outabout

You might have noticed that the formats of local TV newscasts have changed over the years. Like many other things, TV has been adapting to smartphones, the Internet and the 24-hour news cycle. One of the biggest changes has come in the area of sports coverage.

Tom Henderson, news director at NewsChannel 9, said last week that the station has been looking at ways to redefine how sports is presented. It is a change that has been developing for years.

To review: In the old days, we all tuned in at 6 and 11 and got basically equal parts news, sports and weather. In the old, old days, weather was often the last thing, and it was the shortest segment of the newscast. Advances in technology and an increase in viewer interest have changed that to the point that weather is often the longest segment.

Sports, at least locally, used to mean getting updates on whatever regional sports team was in season, some high school highlights and news about the Vols.

Of course, in the old days, our routines were pretty well set, and most of us came home from work, sat down to dinner and watched the news to get up to speed on "the rest of the world."

Today, we get constant updates via smartphones and the Internet. We can now get Australian Rules Football match updates live, so waiting until 6 p.m. the next day to find out who won the Braves game the night before is not necessary anymore.

"This is a work in progress," Henderson said. "We don't have the answers, but we do know what doesn't work, and the Braves highlights from the previous night doesn't work.

"We know committed sports fans don't wait until 6 and 11 to find out about the teams they care about," he said. "Rather than spend resources trying to do things that are not working, we are trying to redefine or seek out sports markets that are underserved."

WTVC, like WDEF, WRCB and WTCI all have figured out that local folks like high school football. Fans will have noticed that local television coverage has actually increased in that regard. Stations have devoted at least a half hour and sometimes a full hour to scores and highlights.

"The challenge now is once we are beyond high school football, what is next," Henderson said. "This is the part where we don't have all of the answers, but we do know what is a good news story, and that doesn't change with sports. Compelling stories of people overcoming obstacles make for good stories. Great human stories are great human stories."

Henderson said the plan is to devote the same resources, and if need be, more resources to finding those stories and in finding ways to get sports news of interest to viewers. That doesn't mean presenting it as part of a five- or 10-minute news block at 6 and 11.

"Too often, we've been enticed into the traditional way of thinking that the only thing people care about is the Vols, the Braves and the Titans.

"This is a great sports town - not so much a sports-watching but a sports-doing town."

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354