Former U.S. Senate candidate Bill Binnie will launch live, local television news broadcasts on his Derry television station starting in late August or early September, part of a multiple-platform approach to distribute the news.
NH1 News Network is hiring about three dozen staffers that will be spread among a Concord newsroom and bureaus in Nashua, Derry, Portsmouth, Laconia and Lebanon.
NH1 also will tap personnel working at Binnie's radio stations to share news content that also will appear on a new website, nh1.com, set to debut a few weeks prior to the TV newscasts. A smartphone app also is planned.
"A lot of what media and advertising is about these days is being able to reach customers on all different screens and how they're consuming media," Lee Kinberg, executive vice president of NH1 News Network, said last week. "The idea is to really offer broad coverage across the state."
Binnie's 16 radio stations and WBIN-TV (Channel 18 on Comcast) count more than 1 million New England listeners and viewers weekly, Kinberg said.
The TV newscasts will run from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 10 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. A Sunday magazine show will air from 11 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
NH1 News will challenge the state's only TV affiliate, WMUR-TV (Channel 9) in Manchester.
"By and large the conclusion from the research was people in New Hampshire would like a choice," Kinberg said.
"Clearly Channel 9 is a big competitor," Kinberg said. "Channel 9, they've done what they've done for a long time and been successful for it. We have to be very different than Channel 9."
Research, he said, showed WMUR didn't provide enough news coverage of the Seacoast area, so that will be a focus of WBIN.
"We'll never try to out-Channel 9 Channel 9," Kinberg said
Jeff Bartlett, general manager at WMUR, wasn't available for comment.
Dante Scala, a political analyst and an associate political science professor at the University of New Hampshire, said "WMUR is well established," has the ABC TV network to draw viewers and still will receive the bulk of political advertising dollars.
Scala said Binnie's news operation won't be successful overnight.
"A lot depends on whether he's in it for the long haul, how deep his pockets are and how far he's willing to reach into his pockets," Scala said.
Kinberg said Binnie is investing millions in the venture, but wouldn't offer specifics.
Binnie, a Portsmouth businessman who ran for U.S. Senate in 2010, "doesn't have any role in the news gathering in any way, shape or form," Kinberg said.
Rick Edmonds, a media business analyst at the Poynter Institute, a Florida school that teaches journalists and media leaders, said a multi-platform approach is a trend he's seeing around the country.
"It's no longer the case a newspaper is just a newspaper and a television station is just a television station," Edmonds said. "TV stations are devoting more effort in putting up a good website than they used to."
Three years ago, WBIN attempted a New Hampshire news show that paired local reporters with news anchors in Iowa.
"We basically learned how hard it is to make news, and we learned we need to be comprehensive" and have more than one newscast a day, Kinberg said.
"We're much more evolved as a company. We added radio since then, especially in terms of marketing and to promote and help us envision a much bigger vision of news as multi-platform," Kinberg said. "We're very focused on the digital side of it."
Binnie's six New Hampshire radio stations include WJYY-FM (105.5) in Concord and WFNQ-FM (106.3) in Nashua as well as others in Laconia, Henniker and Belmont.
NH1 expects to win more ad dollars out of existing advertising customers as well as lure new ones.
It also is counting on grabbing a piece of the lucrative political TV commerical pie.
"Even for a successful station, there are always more people who aren't advertising on it than are," Kinberg said.
NH1 advertised for 27 full-time positions and 11 part-time positions in addition to the existing radio people and some engineers. About a half-dozen positions are filled so far, including news director and digital content manager.
Kinberg said the sales, operations and master control functions will remain at the Derry TV location, and the Concord newsroom will be run out of the former Walker School that Binnie bought for $900,000.