NBC News Launches Digital Video Unit Left Field

Left Field Office - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of NBC

The 12-person team is looking for bring a new approach to video news through short-form documentaries and features made for social media.

The latest project from NBC News is coming out of left field. 

The broadcast news group has launched digital video studio Left Field to produce short-form documentaries and features for social media distribution. 

Led by former BBC News video journalist Matt Danzico, Left Field and its team of about a dozen journalists, cinematographers and animators plans to tell stories about a range of subjects, from refugees living off the grid in Amsterdam to a Swedish museum devoted to gadgets that failed to take off with consumers. One thing all the projects will have in common is that they will be untethered from the fast-paced daily news cycle.

Left Field launches its website Tuesday but also plans to distribute its videos on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. 

Operating out of a co-working space in Union Square, Left Field is physically removed from the rest of the NBC News offices at 30 Rock. Danzico, who joined NBC about six months ago, says that was the intention. He calls the unit "unbound" from the rest of NBC News, which gives it "the freedom to explore and experiment." He acknowledges that the infrastructure of NBC News will help boost Left Field's efforts, but adds that he doesn't have plans to pursue more traditional distribution for Left Field's projects. 

"We will be taking our learnings back to 30 Rock," he says, explaining that the goal is to reach young viewers who might not already get their news from Today or MSNBC. 

While Left Field is focused on digital distribution, it also has a project in the works designed to deliver news in a more old-school way. People can call the Field Phone (315-LF-FIELD) to hear behind-the-scenes audio reports from Left Field's journalists and cinematographers. The phone line will also have options for listening to audio versions of stories, leaving tips for the reporters, and recording stories that could be turned into animations.  

Many news organizations are beginning to experiment with digital video. CBS launched streaming news channel CBSN in 2014, and CNN in 2015 launched Great Big Story, an online hub for reported and highly produced video pieces oriented toward millennial and digital-savvy audiences.