Imagine this — you see a news helicopter passing over a crime scene. The graphics are for WHAS-TV. But then you see the bird turn around, and it goes by and displays the graphics for WAVE-TV.
That will be the reality starting Friday, when a new contract the two stations have signed goes into effect. The two stations will share air time and the video feeds will be identical on each station.
Mark Neerman, WHAS-TV’s news director, says the new arrangement saves both stations money and is similar to deals being made in the TV business. “It’s becoming really common all across the country,” he said.
Neerman said that in San Francisco, his previous stop, the NBC and CBS-owned affiliates shared a copter, and that he knew that four stations in Miami shared one.
In cases of breaking news, such as last week’s accidents at Rubbertown and Swift, the video feed would be unnecessarily duplicative and put extra helicopters in the air, he said.
As part of the deal, both stations get “private time” when they can use the aircraft without the other station’s involvement, such as investigative pieces that require aerial views. On the other hand, if one station knows about a breaking story and other doesn’t, the potential scoop would have to be shared with a competitor. The other option being to do the story without the chopper.
The new deal is with Helicopters Inc. of St. Louis, which calls itself “the leading provider of news gathering helicopters.”
Reed Yadon, the WHAS-TV helicopter pilot, will no longer be flying, though he remains with the station in his capacity as a weathercaster. He also had a contact with the former helicopter company, U.S. Helicopters, Inc. which no longer has a contract with the station.
WLKY-TV has its own chopper, and Fox41 is not a part of any helicopter deal, choosing to rent time when needed.