Maintaining status quo
With HDTV operations in shape, it's on to other digital demands
By Ken Kerschbaumer -- Broadcasting & Cable, 2/24/2002 7:00:00 PM
|·||Electronic newsroom systems|
ABC will be checking out HDTV production equipment, but that won't be the main focus of its trip to NAB. The network is in good shape with both HD gear and programming and will be looking for ways to tie digital systems together.
"We'll always be monitoring developments in HDTV," says Preston Davis, president, broadcast operations and engineering, ABC, "but we have the core equipment we need to do a pretty good job of delivering HDTV content to viewers, so I don't see any big pushes in that direction this year."
One quest Davis and his staff will continue is the search for an archive system. "We've had projects over the last couple of years looking at archiving, asset management and wide-area networks because the three are sort of related," he says. "But we haven't seen any elegant solutions to those problems today, at least nothing we can afford."
There will be the beginnings of a push to deliver digital network feeds to affiliates, something ABC doesn't do today. "We're probably one of the few networks that has an analog network-to-affiliate delivery system, so we'll be looking at technology that will allow us to digitize those paths in the next year or two," says Davis. If things go well, ABC will be up with a digital system by the end of 2003.
Digital transmission receivers are on Davis's list, as well as equipment that allows for compression of multiple program streams onto a single transponder. He also says MPEG-4 technologies will be investigated as well. There isn't a specific agenda, but the goal is to make sure ABC knows where transmission technologies are going.
"We'll canvass the show for the first few hours, and then, because we're such a small team, we'll have to figure out a strategy as to how we're going to approach seeing the show," he says. "We'll have to pick our spots, but we also don't want to miss the little jewel companies that are developing the glue that makes some of these larger systems work. They tend to be located in the corners of the big halls or some of the smaller halls."
This year's budget is about the same as last year's, Davis says, adding that there is always old equipment that needs to be replaced and things that need to be done.
"We have 30-year-old networking facilities, two of which will be updated this year, and edit rooms that need to be replaced," he explains. "So most of the efforts that we will pursue this NAB are focused on replacing old facilities. We aren't looking to grow but to maintain the current production capacity with equipment that is reliable and hopefully makes us more efficient."
While he doesn't expect anything groundbreaking, he does expect some developments in collaborative editing systems and electronic newsrooms that will be worth investigating. The editing systems will be used for news, daytime and sports programming.
As for the newsroom, Davis says ABC News has been looking at newsrooms for a while but ABC will be trying to get a sense for trends and seeing which manufacturers are doing the best job with third-party integration.
He sees that as a real issue confronting newsrooms. "It's one thing to have a great newsroom system, but it's another thing to tie it back to legacy systems as well as configuring it in a way that anticipates future technologies."
Probably the biggest change in ABC's approach to NAB this year is that the network is reversing its planning. In previous years, the network would meet with manufacturers before the show so the staff could get an idea of what to expect. This year, however, the meetings will be held afterward.
"We're going into NAB with our eyes wide open and our hopes high," he explains. "We think [having meetings after NAB] will be more fruitful and allow us to target more specifically those things that we found at NAB."
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