NBC10 joins 'chopper wars' with its own copter

After sharing a helicopter with CBS3 and Fox29, NBC10 has its own. Costs can run $500,000 to $1.5 million a year.
After sharing a helicopter with CBS3 and Fox29, NBC10 has its own. Costs can run $500,000 to $1.5 million a year.
Posted: March 09, 2013

Television news chopper wars?

NBC10 - whose local news broadcasts rank second at 6 p.m. and third at 11 - has added a helicopter to its news-gathering organization after breaking off a chopper-sharing relationship with CBS3 and Fox29.

A TV chopper, sources say, can cost a station from $500,000 to $1.5 million a year.

NBC10 says it's flying the chopper daily in the morning and afternoon, and the addition of the Bell 206L-4 LongRanger is part of Comcast Corp.'s investment in NBC-owned television stations around the country. Comcast acquired NBCUniversal in January 2011.

Years ago, NBC10 had its own chopper, then it entered into the sharing agreement to cut costs. CBS and Fox still share a helicopter. 6ABC has its own. Those two choppers are based out of Northeast Philadelphia Airport. NBC10's helicopter is based at Penn's Landing.

Anzio Williams, NBC10's vice president of news, said: "You need a helicopter in this market. You go from the Poconos to Cape May; that's a large area." Williams said he did not think that NBC10's earlier decision to eliminate its chopper benefited the community.

NBC10 said it would share a backup helicopter with the NBC-owned TV station in New York.

NBC10's local news ratings, particularly at 11, have been hurt by the network's weak prime-time slate. Last month's sweeps ratings showed that an average of 246,256 Philadelphia-area households tuned in to 6ABC local news at 11, while an average of 144,688 households watched NBC10, according to Nielsen Co. The average for CBS3 was 183,123.

"When times got tough, we did not walk away from it," said Bernie A. Prazenica, president and general manager of 6ABC. "If you are going to cover the tristate area properly, you need a chopper. I say, 'Welcome back.' "


Contact Bob Fernandez at 215-854-5897 or bob.fernandez@phillynews.com or follow

on Twitter @bobfernandez1.

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