In some ways, KING 5’s new three-floor headquarters feels like the home of a modern tech startup. Open working space in the newsroom allows for easier collaboration. Meeting rooms use touch-screens for online reservations and feature WiFi-connected flatscreen TVs. Inside the studio, which faces the home plate entrance to Safeco Field, robotic cameras can swivel around to create four separate sets. Anchors use iPads to read their rundowns and can interact with a massive 84-inch touch-screen Microsoft Surface Hub while on air.
Welcome to Seattle’s newest — and probably geekiest — TV broadcast studio.
KING 5, the city’s NBC affiliate, officially revealed its new SoDo digs to viewers across Western Washington on Monday morning in the North Building of the new Home Plate Center. GeekWire got a sneak preview last week and spoke to long-time KING 5 anchors Lori Matsukawa and Dennis Bounds about the big move from 333 Dexter Ave., the previous HQ in South Lake Union that was home to KING 5 since 1952.
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“This is like moving into a new house — we get a new house, we get new furniture, and there’s really a level of excitement amongst the news people about coming into a new place,” Bounds said. “It’s going to be pretty nice.”
Taking advantage of a booming real estate climate around South Lake Union, KING 5 owner Tegna Inc. (previously named Gannett) sold the old building to Kilroy Realty for close to $50 million in 2014. Kilroy plans a big new project on the site.
The new headquarters is certainly an upgrade in every sense. Matsukawa pointed out the versatility of the space.
“We look like we are everywhere,” she said. “We can do our broadcast here from the studio; we can go outside and do a live broadcast from the sidewalk; we can go up on the roof and get a great shot of Safeco and the rest of the city. It will look like we are everywhere, and that’s the whole magic of television.”
Stacey Donahue, director of marketing for KING 5, noted that the physical location of the new HQ is also advantageous.
“This location is amazing,” she said. “When we need to let off a little steam, we have Safeco, CenturyLink, Pioneer Square — we really feel like we’re in the center of things. This is an up-and-coming area and the team is really excited to be here.”
The studio itself is nearly half the size of the previous studio, but has an additional 11 cameras and 74 new LED lights that give the space a bright, modern look. Having four different angles to air a broadcast in the 360-degree set also gives anchors more flexibility with how they report the news. For example, they can stand in front of the glass windows along the sidewalk outside of Safeco Field at the corner of First Avenue South and Edgar Martinez Drive, or they can walk over to the Surface Hub and interact with the enormous touch-screen.
“All these changes have been geared toward better storytelling, because news people are basically storytellers,” Matsukawa said. “People will see a lot clearer and more precise video with terrific graphics and animations. All of it gives them a better understanding of what the story is and how it affects their lives.”
Added Bounds: “It looks like 2016. We’ll be able to illustrate stories much, much better.”
Bounds also said that the windows looking out to Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners, give KING 5 “that connection to the outdoors.”
“We’re not locked inside a hermetically-sealed studio,” he said. “We can see the world.”
Speaking of the Surface Hub, this is the first TV station that will utilize Microsoft’s collaboration device, a successor to the company’s Perceptive Pixel displays. A Microsoft spokesperson said that KING 5 will be able to not only use the touchscreen for maps and Internet capabilities, but also “connect directly with reporters in the field, lending itself to more cohesive and collaborative storytelling.”
There’s also a redesigned weather and traffic center, where KING 5 is utilizing road congestion data from local company INRIX and the University of Washington.
The newsroom area, which takes up the entire second floor, mimics a design you might see at a tech company with open-air work stations and a fully-stocked kitchen with latte machines.
“It incorporates all of the best of thinking about flow of information and how people work together with what information, hierarchy, and timing is needed,” Donahue said.
Editor’s note: KING5 is a GeekWire news partner.