A Brighter House for Bay News 9

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Bright House Networks is doubling the size of the studios for Bay News 9, its Tampa Bay-area news operation, by moving the production facility into its St. Petersburg, Fla., regional headquarters.

The 24-hour news channel will make the jump June 27 from its home of eight years in Pinellas Park. Its new, 23,000-square-foot facility includes four studios; two control rooms; and updated automation and server technology that will allow it to distribute news content to different platforms.

In addition to the English-language news service, Bay News 9 also comprises a three-year-old Spanish language cable news network; Travel Weather Now, a six-year-old regional weather channel; Tampa Bay on Demand, which became available last year; and the news operation’s Web site.

Viewers will notice the move because the new facility will include sets designed by FX Group of Orlando, the same design firm tapped by CNN and many broadcast stations, said Bright House vice president of news programming Elliot Wiser.

Bay News 9 helped further cement its reputation with its 2004 coverage of the four disastrous hurricanes that struck Florida. The channel averaged a 14.8 rating among the region’s cable households during that storm season, Wiser said.

Even before last year, the channel was consistently ranked either No. 1 or No. 2 in regional weather coverage, he added.

Experts expect 2005 to be another active storm season, and Wiser said executives took what they learned during last storm season and made design revisions to the new studios. For example, some of the set was expanded to allow for the presence of multiple meteorologists during storm coverage.

The 2004 season demonstrated the need for satellite phones, which will be part of the equipment package this year.

The location itself will help the news operation cope with severe weather. It will be co-located with the Florida group division headquarters, the high-speed data support team for the Pinellas region and the regional call center.

“Last year, our dormitory was a conference room,” Wiser said, joking about the emergency accommodations in Pinellas Park. News personnel will have more facilities available to them in the new building.

“Now we’re, moving in with the rest of the cable company,” he said. “We’re all in it together.”

The new facility “speaks volumes about Bright House’s commitment to the community,” Wiser said of the corporate parent.

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