20/20 Visionaries

B&C’s 20th anniversary Technology Leadership Awards class can see a future of convergence, competition and challenges waiting to be met

The challenges and opportunities presented by the convergence of information technology with broadcast engineering — including how to make sure the TV industry competes for the best and brightest young tech minds — comes through as a theme in conversations with the honorees of this year’s Technology Leadership Awards.

This 20th annual class, who will be honored at an evening reception on Monday, April 24, at the NAB Show in Las Vegas, include IT and engineering leaders at station groups big and small and one tech leader who’s marking a 30th season associated with Major League Baseball.

While the evolution of broadcasting into content delivery over multiple platforms is on their minds, so too, for some at least, are the challenges associated with stations’ repacking after the broadcast spectrum incentive auction, and the benefits hoped for from the implementation of the ATSC 3.0 transmission standard now heading toward final adoption.

While some fret that maybe the tech leaders of the future don’t realize how cool an industry broadcasting is, these honorees share a love for the dynamic nature of this ever-changing business and know they have to be at the top of their games to serve their viewers, whenever, wherever and however.

Here is a closer look at this year’s Technology Leadership Award honorees.

Brady Dreasler
Corporate Director of Engineering, Quincy Media

Quincy, Ill., native Brady Dreasler began his career with Quincy Media at WGEM in 1972 and over the years has gained experience in virtually every department at a TV and radio station. He has served as an operations manager and spent eight years in sales. That broad knowledge base gives him more of an ownership perspective than one might expect from a typical engineer, he said.

Dreasler became corporate director of broadcasting engineering in 1997 and oversees all technology, including engineering and information tech, for QMI; his work roster includes newspapers and 20 TV and radio stations.

“It’s never boring, and I enjoy the rapid pace of change,” he said. “Just when you think you’ve got something under control then there’s something new that you have to take a run at and understand and get up to speed on.”

Hence his advice to aspiring media folks: Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone.

QMI, while not the biggest broadcaster around, enjoys being able to react quickly to opportunities as a family-owned business. One example: QMI has drones and drone pilots working in every market, something many competitors can’t match. “We think it sets us apart,” Dreasler said, citing the fact that drones can deliver pictures from situations where even helicopters can’t perform. “It changes the kind of storytelling we can do. That’s our job, to do storytelling.” The engineers’ role, he added, is to help the storytellers “be better than the best.”

Dreasler serves on the NAB Technology Committee, the Advanced Television Systems Committee and the Imagine Communications Advisory Board. The industry’s changing conditions at the moment includes dealing with the repack of stations following the spectrum auction. A dozen Quincy stations are affected, moving up or down, he said.

Quincy’s WKOW in Madison, Wis., was an early tester of the upcoming ATSC 3.0 standard, which is rooted in Internet protocol technology and which Dreasler sees as a source of great opportunity for the broadcast TV industry.

“The beauty of the new system is it’s much more migrateable going forward,” he said, adding that it’s more of an open standard than the current one, which is in need of updates after 20-plus years. “It will last longer.”

Though he loves to travel, Quincy remains home and where he and his wife, Cheryl, raised their three children. And though WGEM is an NBC, Fox and The CW affiliate, he can be excused for watching KHQA, the local CBS/ABC station — that’s where his daughter Jenny, who followed her dad into the business, sits in the anchor chair.

Michael Englehaupt
VP, Chief Technology Officer, Graham Media Group

Mike Englehaupt got the broadcasting bug growing up in Winnetka, Ill., where his high school had a TV station and a radio station. “I just found that was the most intriguing, most exciting thing I had ever seen, and I never looked back.”

Ultimately — after initially working in radio (first at rock station WMET in Chicago), then in live sound engineering, in radio again and finally in TV — he advanced to his current position (since 2015), leading the information technology and engineering strategy for Graham Media Group. GMG owns seven local TV stations, each in a top-70 market and each recognized as a news leader.

Englehaupt is in a key role as GMG continues to evolve into a more digitally centric, IP- and IT-based media company.

He has led facility rebuilds, renovations and improvements; managed IT expansions; and driven energy efficiency and sustainability initiatives throughout his long career.

Englehaupt joined GMG after serving as director of broadcast operations and engineering with KPIX in San Francisco from 2003-13 and with KABC in Los Angeles from 1999-2003. Prior engineering assignments included WLS and WMAQ in Chicago and with Telemundo Network in Miami, Fla.

Among the bigger projects he has been involved with were building the new KABC broadcast center in Glendale, Calif., in 1999 and 2000 — “I was really happy to be part of that; that was the single largest project I ever worked on” — and renovations of WLS (begun in 1997) and of KPIX and KBCW in San Francisco. “Those three probably spanned the most years in my career and also were pretty significant,” he said.

Englehaupt said the broadcast industry’s top challenges and opportunities will come at the intersection of IT and more traditional broadcast engineering. Finding job candidates with the right blend of skills to take full advantage of continuous hardware and software advances is the challenge; further exploiting the IT landscape is the premier opportunity.

Regarding the former, GMG has well finding candidates with IT training and sometimes media technology from the military, he said, but many resumes fall short on relevant experience. “There’s a perception that broadcasting has somehow fallen out of favor,” he said. “I’m not sure that’s true but there’s certainly more of a perception about it.”

As to why: “I think we’ve got an identity problem,” he added. “I don’t think IT people see television as really sexy and something that they want to get into.”

That perception needs to change, he said, because “when people see media technology really is a pretty cool business to be in, I think it will attract more and more people.”

Perhaps that best explains his advice to career seekers, which also doubles as a good career philosophy: “Don’t be hesitant to challenge the status quo.”