Nexstar offers new depth to March Madness coverage

Nexstar gave users a first-of-its-kind digital content experience that offered a new level of March Madness coverage that can’t be found on most national websites.  Last month, Nexstar decided to leverage the power of content creators across the country to display the scope of the company’s local coverage.

The goal was to highlight local reporters who’ve built trust and relationships with the teams and showcase their work in a single spot. Nexstar created an in-depth plan designed to produce live and on-demand content that went deeper than typical press conference and post-game interviews.

The centerpiece of the Big Tournament page, which was shared across 100 websites, was a streaming program featuring live reports from each of the regional host locations of the NCAA Tournament. The show was produced by the team at WCMH in Columbus, Ohio under the direction of News Director Dave Ciliberti and Operators Director Phillip Schneid. “Big Tournament Live” streamed during 12 days of the tournament — each show running about 30 minutes and featuring insight, analysis, and reaction from as many as eight live reporters.

“With so many stations and reporters all producing exclusive digital content with interviews and fun features, our team in Columbus worked on a game plan to highlight that content throughout the multi-week project,” said Haley Townsend, WCMH Digital Director.

“We wanted it to look and feel like a big production, and I think our reporters and stations responded to that,” added Jerod Smalley, Big Tournament Live host and WCMH Sports Director.

One major difference between this type of show and television? Taking users directly to additional content.

“We disrupted our typical broadcast TV verbiage to prioritize the mobile-first viewing,” Townsend added.  “Smalley directed people verbally and visually to the elements that framed the livestream player on the site they were watching him on.”

After only its first five broadcasts, the initiative became Nexstar’s most successful streaming project. Along with making Big Tournament Live available on demand immediately after it streamed, the page featured roughly 350 pieces of content showcasing more than 300 video clips produced by Nexstar journalists.

“Viewers so often only see the snippets of stories we provide on air, but the digital products meant we weren’t limited in the coverage we could provide,” said Jessica Wimsatt, anchor/reporter at WEHT-TV in Evansville, Indiana.

Wimsatt covered Kentucky and regularly appeared on the Big Tournament Live stream and produced digital on-demand content for the page.

“It’s easy for someone at home to flip on ESPN and hear about Kentucky, so my job was to give the viewer something that only I could get from my access covering the team,” said Wimsatt.

The unique content included everything from a hospitalized grandmother watching her grandson compete to Texas Tech coach Chris Beard’s daughter battling a former player in video games. The effort also gave journalists the opportunity to present their personalities.

“Jermaine Ferrell from WXFR quickly became a favorite with the fun he brought to his live shots.  WOOD Sports Director Jack Dole did a poolside live shot in a sports coat and shorts,” Townsend said. “Each day, the on-location talent continued to bring their A-game, making the show incredibly fun to produce and to watch.”

And watch users did. Tournament content, including a bracket contest rolled out across the country, generated more than 1 million page views over a 3-week period. It was a grand idea that certainly paid off.

“The company has an impressive amount of talented people and not one person we worked with failed to embrace the project,” added Smalley.  “It was useful to build those working relationships across the country. That will certainly come in handy moving forward.”

Those relationships certainly laid the foundation for future projects. Big Tournament Live showcased the power of local stations working together to create a more personal, unique content experience in a digital-first environment.

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