‘Nightly’ experiments with different tease formats during local news lead ins

Over the past few weeks, “NBC Nightly News” has been experimenting with a variety of ways for its local stations to promote the national broadcast during their own local newscasts.

In the Chicago market, which is home  to the NBC owned station WMAQ, these have been rolling during November 2021.

“Nightly” continues to offer all of its stations a recorded tease featuring anchor Lester Holt that they can run during their local newscasts as time and stacking allows. It’s typically taped in the time leading up to the broadcast and then transmitted to stations to use as needed.

NBC Chicago frequently runs it when going to the commercial break before the last block, but has also “tossed” to it as a “look live” before as well.

Since moving “Nightly” to Studio 1A, the network has experimented with a variety of ways to shoot these, including having Holt stand next to the freestanding flat video wall that’s used as an OTS element behind most of the stories during “Nightly.”

Here’s anchor Lester Holt Oct. 11, 2021 on the affiliate tease standing near the video wall displaying simply the ‘Nightly News’ logo as he teases some of the stories coming up.

Since earlier in the month, the broadcast has been experimenting with a variety of ways to shoot this segment, including using the movable panels in the studio’s “production area” to showcase a “Minutes away” animation along with topical graphics behind Holt, rather than just the show logo.

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There’s also slight variations on camera moves as well as the final shot — which sometimes features one of the wild vertical monitor units with the date on it.

It also shot one in what appeared to be the studio’s satellite production area upstairs using the corner video wall that was installed there in 2019. 

The other update is that NBC is providing providing stations with a live “countdown” to “Nightly” that they can “dip into.”

The screen provided features a dark blue background with the oversized “Nightly News” logotype letters in outline in the background, similar to what the show uses in other looks.

There’s a large area for live video, which is typically either a wide view of Studio 1A showing Holt going over scripts, getting assistance from the crew and camera operators practicing moves, though no audio is provided.

Meanwhile, three headlines run down the left side of the screen below a “Nightly News” “begins in” graphic above with a large, live countdown with minutes and seconds.

Other times show the control room instead. The network appears to provide stations with details on what stories are coming up so the local anchors can read brief descriptions of each story as needed.

The exact timing and placement of this feed varies in Chicago — likely based on if the show is running heavy, in which case the station may not air one or both teases. 

Also in Chicago, the live feed is typically used returning from the final break and just before a review of the day’s top stories. 

In general, the feed shows Holt at the small anchor desk over near the corner of Studio 1A’s “Today” home base earlier in the feed, where his is likely in position to provide live teases for stations in major markets (NBC Chicago hasn’t made regular use of this in quite some time).

This feed is likely started at a fix time each night and, since no audio is needed other than the local anchors’ reading the teases, it’s flexible enough for a station to dip in whenever they need or want to. It could also even be used as a bump shot going to a break sans any anchor reads.

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As 6:30 p.m. eastern (5:30 p.m. in Chicago) nears, Holt moves over to stand in front of the large 40-foot video wall with curved anchor desk placed in front of it to prep for the top of the broadcast.

The network provides the feed up to “00:00” before the broadcast before rolling the tease headlines, which are often pre-produced. 

Previously, NBC Chicago would air the taped tease and then have its anchors promote one story from the upcoming “Nightly” broadcast primarily as a voiceover before cutting to a graphic promoting both “Nightly” and its own 6 p.m. news.

This graphic and the station’s music would typically appear until the network feed took over.

The ‘coming up’ graphic WMAQ in Chicago previously used just before cutting to the network feed of ‘NBC Nightly News.’

It’s not immediately clear why “Nightly” appears to be beefing up its promotion during local newscasts or to what extent it’s being done, but it’s worth noting that having its owned stations in major markets do this means that a good portion of the country’s population sees the teases.

At least two other NBC owned stations have been using this format, according to NewscastStudio tipsters. It’s not clear if the countdown screen is available to non-NBC owned stations.

The countdown tease has similarities the format that “Nightly” and other shows use during “fast breaks” while also letting viewers know they don’t have to stick around all that much longer to see the stories being discussed.

The ultimate goal here is likely to retain as much lead in audience as possible going into “Nightly” (as long as the network can hold those eyeballs for five minutes, it typically counts for the entire quarter hour in the ratings).

“Nightly,” like other network newscasts, have increased the amount of time dedicated to tease headlines as a way to both provide a quick rundown of the day’s news and tell viewers what’s coming up.

“Nightly” typically has an A block that’s 10-12 minutes long before going to a brief (often one minute) break with a countdown and “coming up” banner. That, combined with the B block immediately after it, typically pushes the viewer at least five minutes in the next quarter hour. 

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