KTUU a gray owned station has Released a statement over the Iditarod Coverage

The Iditarod is an iconic Alaskan experience — a 1,000-mile, eight-to-nine day dogsled race spanning from Anchorage to Nome that rivets locals every March.

At KTUU, Gray Television’s Anchorage NBC affiliate, coverage of the race has long been essential A-block material.

“The Iditarod is such a uniquely Alaskan event, it certainly is a matter of great pride to Alaskans, but what’s fascinating is it also has this worldwide audience,” says Tracy Sabo, KTUU’s news director.

KTUU has now set out to see if can reach that audience through OTT and tap into new source of advertising revenue to support the costly production.

For this year’s race, the station successfully tested streaming its race coverage on SBTV, the OTT platform of Syncbak that has no geographic bounds. And next March, with a big promotional push, it will see if it can monetize the OTT coverage.

(It helps that KTUU has a relationship with Syncbak going even further back than its Gray ownership. Syncbak has handled KTUU’s live streaming for years and is only recently sunsetting the station’s Air Wave app in favor of SBTV.)

The key content ingredients are already in place: KTUU dedicates 10 staffers (of its newsroom of 38) to race coverage each year, including seven in the field, two manning digital platforms and an on-air talent fronting its frequent “Iditarod Trail Tracker” segments.

And that’s not including the pilot and chase plane — not to mention the snow mobiles — the station hires every year to hop between the race’s checkpoints, many of which pass through extremely remote villages and outposts along its alternate northern and southern routes.

“It’s financially a major drain for us,” Sabo says. “Flying and chartering aircraft is not cheap.”

In all, Iditarod coverage eats up about half of the station’s annual travel budget.

But it’s also a journalistic trove. While one crew stays close to the race leaders among the 60 or so mushers each year, another files stories on the remote communities along the route, many of which are economically hurting and otherwise get scant media notice.

Years of practice have honed the race coverage crews, who sleep in remote cabins or on gym floors along the route and break out their flyaway satellite dish to transmit from every stop.

Back at the station, feeds from the field go through the newsroom and then right up to its website, vMVPDs like Hulu and now Syncbak’s SBTV.

“We have it down to a science,” Sabo says of the multiplatform coverage.

The Iditarod also yields plenty of digital-only extras including race maps and photo galleries along with further monetization opportunities there.

This year, for instance, an “I Spy” on-air contest also had viewers keeping an eye out for an animation of mushers across the screen’s lower third.