Called “Left Field,” the group is comprised of about 12 staffers who come from various news and film backgrounds, and their mandate is to create compelling four- to 10-minute documentary-style videos for the under 35-year-old set.
“The idea was born almost exactly a year go,” said Nick Ascheim, senior vice president of digital at NBC News and MSNBC. “It came from the notion that while NBC News was producing phenomenal journalism for the better part of a century, we didn’t feel we were addressing a younger audience.”
That feeling is not specific to NBC but is also shared by all the major broadcasters trying to amp up their presence to this generation of Millennial cord cutters.
But this unit is different, said Ascheim, who recruited filmmaker Matt Danzico to run and assemble the unit. Danzico, who most recently served as chief and creator of BBC Pop Up, the company’s first traveling bureau, pulled in international filmmakers, visual effects specialists, producers and journalists from BBC, Vice, CNN and The New Yorker, among others. They include David Botti, Owain Rich, Katie Engelhart, Ed Ou, Freddie Campion, Sky Dylan-Robbins, Haimy Basckin, Justine Bo, Lulu Jiang, John Makely and Andrew Pinzler.
Headquartered in WeWork in Union Square here, Left Field has already completed a few projects, including a story about refugees seeking asylum in Amsterdam and a video on the Museum of Failure in Sweden. Those short documentaries will appear on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and NBC’s digital sites, which includes NBCleftfield.com.
“The way we think about it is the metropolitan cities of the Internet have been established and they are called Facebook, Instagram and Twitter,” Danzico said. “We need to populate those metropolitan cities.”
Danzico noted that Left Field differs slightly from investigative units at places such as 60 Minutes, CNN, Vice, Fusion, BBC and various publishers because it is focusing on “pushing the moving image forward” through new camera techniques and styles, including drone and virtual reality storytelling.
Some topics Left Field hopes to tackle include Montenegro’s membership in NATO and its role as a political battleground between Russia and the West, the killing of wild horses in Colorado, coal miners in Kentucky and the role of surfing in first nation communities in Canada. Although the subject matter is disparate, it is meant to be news-driven in spirit with a features bend.
The group looks to release one to two films a week and then will assess demand, Ascheim said, noting that there is no advertising tied to Left Field yet. He also declined to provide insight into NBC News’ investment in Left Field, but offered that the “intention” is that the unit will be producing content for “a long period of time.”