Did you know the HLN Live studio is a fully automated news studio? Check our interview and visit to the HLN Live one-man band studio at DPG Media to learn all about it! Special thanks to Head of Technology of News City: Sven Van Vlem to answer all of our eager questions.
Hi, Sven. How are you?
Hello, I’m doing really well in this new year.
Oh Happy New Year!
Yeah. Happy New Year!
How are you enjoying your day at DPG media?
Really well. We’re putting our plans together for the coming next months. All the projects are starting up again from where we left off before Christmas so… Yeah, it’s going to be really exciting.
Okay, nice. So you’re head of technology for News City here?
What exactly does that mean on a daily basis?
Yeah. So I’m leading the technical teams behind VTM news. Um, which is our main broadcast news and also for HLN video, which is our main online brand, HLN, where we do all the live content.
Yeah, yeah. And where exactly does your passion for these live studios come from?
I’ve been working in this industry for more than 15 years now. So I started as setlight engineer for news at DPG, which was VMMa, Medialaan in the beginning before the merge with De Persgroep. So I’ve been working all my professional career in the media, so especially for news. That’s why I’m still here.
And you’re really passionate about it?
Yes. Yes. News is in the core of my DNA.
Yeah. How exactly would you describe the difference between a live studio and a more traditional linear news studio?
Yeah we have the main VTM News channel which is actually our 7pm main television news. And then besides that, we have created a set specially for online content where we can go live whenever needed for breaking news, for all live content that is happening now. We have to go live and be there for our audience on the website and in the app, of course.
Do you think that’s important today to immediately provide the news at the moment it happens?
Yeah, yeah. I think that the live content is really, really important for people. Um, they want to see the news when it is happening and not after a couple of hours a ’round-up’. No, no, they want to see now. So I think live content is really, REALLY important for our viewers.
Do you think that’s the power of live news?
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. If you see to the like, maybe if you look at China, everybody’s going ‘live live live’, even if you go shopping. So the the whole media experience is live. Um, and for news, we also want to be there where the news is happening. So we have to be live, I think it’s our main goal.
And do you think that is more an answer to the needs of the audience?Or do you think the audience adapted to the 24/7 media consumption?
I think both. I think we need to adapt with our main news channel to what the viewers want. But I think also people want more live content through social media. And actually, this is going live on our own platform. But with the same feeling behind that it is happening now
And you’re the only ones in Belgium doing the 24/7 live?
On the French side of Belgium there’s also a 24/7 channel. Um, and… actually our channel is not 100% 24/7 anymore. It’s more like when it happens, you can go to HLN and see what is happening. Um, it’s not that in the middle of the night -we can do a loop- but if there is no content, we will not go live.
To talk about whatever…
Yeah to talk about nothing.
And what would be the challenge of the live news flow?
There are several challenges. first of all, you have to be there where it is happening. So we need to- We need a vast network of people that can go there as quickly as possible.
Yeah flexible. They need the tools to go live. We need to get the signals here and be able to communicate with them. Um, and we also need people here. That can manage the set so we can create the content and publish it. So yeah, it’s not as easy as “I have an iPhone and I can go live on Facebook.” No, there is a whole chain of things that needs to work before we can go
live on our platforms.
Mm-Hmm. So, the new studios are evolving constantly. How did that exactly impact your job?
Massively. As I said, I come from a broadcast environment and today we are moving quickly towards cloud solutions and software based solutions instead of buying a whole video mixer to do your stuff. So it’s a rapidly, rapidly changing and we need to adapt, but that’s actually in our benefits for these kinds of live-sets for online media so we we can change our setup more easily and adapt. So it’s, uh, yeah, really exciting.
Yeah. In your opinion, what would be the future of news production? How will it evolve and how will you prepare?
I’m confident that live content will be available for all kinds of interests. Um so… Even if you want to see what is happening in your city nearby, we should be able to provide you live content of what is happening in your city. But also much broader for countrywide or even internationally. So we have to go from really small to really big and be able to scale our productions.
Well, thank you, Sven, for talking to us for taking the time. And all the best of luck in 2022.
Yeah, thank you and say for you, of course.