Transforming local election coverage

This past year I’ve had the privilege to work closely with the team at KING5 News, a local TV station in Seattle. The team, led by Peter O’Connell, wanted to change the way they reported local election results and deliver ‘something no one else has’ to their audience of TV viewers, website and mobile application news consumers. You can see the web version of the solution on KING5’s website.

Natalie Brand and Lukasz Pawlowski reviewing the Power BI solution used for KING 5 election coverage on a Surface Hub in KING5's studios.

Natalie Brand and Lukasz Pawlowski reviewing the Power BI solution used for KING 5 election coverage on a Surface Hub in KING5’s studios.

I worked in collaboration with a broader team delivering an end to end solution included live on air broadcast quality data visualizations and live web and mobile application based interactive election results reporting.

We focused first to understand the user requirements for on-air data delivery. KING5’s Political Reporter, Nathalie Brand, would need to present the data live on air using a Surface Hub installed in KING5’s new studio. She would be joined by political analysts. The experience had to be intuitive, fluid, and simple enough that the presenters could pick it up within minutes and that a viewer at home watching TV, perhaps distracted, could follow along. Simultaneously, the data needed to be live on the KING5 web site and in their mobile applications.

The solution we devised was based on Azure SQL as the central repository of data that was then loaded using a direct query connection into reports in KING5’s Power BI account. There were several layers of redundancy built-in including a backup on premises SQL Server we could switch to in case any data connections failed. Reports were tailored to fit the Surface Hub, KING5’s web page, and the various KING5 mobile applications for iPad, iPhone, and Android. The web and mobile applications used Power BI’s publish to web feature to see the reports publicly. By working with Microsoft, KING5 had their embed codes enabled for fast data refresh, something that is possible through Power BI’s Data Journalism program.

The Power BI mobile applications team built a new Surface Hub Presentation mode in support of the KING5 engagement. The design of this mode was influenced by the demanding requirements KING5 had for intuitive user interaction in a high pressure (live on-air) environment. The result is a flexible presentation mode that makes it easy to view content, change pages, and draw on reports to bring out insights regardless of where you stand in front of the Surface Hub. Any Power BI user can experience this new mode by installing the Power BI Universal Windows Platform app.

You can read some of the news coverage this project generated. What this project demonstrated was that Power BI is a viable solution for bringing big network style election coverage to local stations, newspapers, and bloggers.

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