Technology

Hearst Taps Streambox Live

IP delivery key part of Next Generation Newsroom 8/23/2010 12:01:00 AM Eastern

In another sign of the growing acceptance
of using IP-based transmission
to deliver news content from the field to
the studio, Hearst Television has purchased a
corporate license for the cloud-based Streambox
Live broadband video contribution service,
which allows journalists to stream live or filebased
video over low-bandwidth IP networks.

Hearst had previously tested Streambox’s hardware-
based products but hadn’t moved forward
because of their cost, about $10,000 per encoder.
But with the Streambox Live service, which Seattle-
based Streambox commercialized earlier this
year, Hearst can buy a bucket of minutes it can
use across its 25 news-producing stations.

“The cool thing is, I can do one bucket and
all the stations can use it,” says Joe Addalia,
director of technology projects for Hearst. “If
Wisconsin is doing a lot and West Palm Beach
is doing nothing [through the service], it doesn’t
matter, because you share the minutes.”

Cost-effective solution

Hearst has rolled out the Streambox software at 14
stations, loading it on about 10 laptops per station.
Addalia won’t disclose how much the service costs
Hearst, but says it is cost-effective and delivers better
video and audio quality than consumer-based
streaming services such as Skype. Hearst has even
taken Streambox Live streams straight to air, using
a Matrox DVI-to-SDI converter to convert the
PC output to a broadcast format and placing it in
a small window in the HD frame. Addalia’s only
reservation with Streambox Live is that because it
uses Streambox’s proprietary ACT-L3 codec, video
sent via the service need to be transcoded before it
can be taken straight to the Web.

“It maintains the highest quality you can get
on an aircard or Wi-Fi connection,” Addalia
says. “It allows us to get professional rate encoding,
and not have to pay a huge capital cost.”

Streambox Live is just one piece of Hearst’s
Next Generation Newsroom Project, an initiative
that aims to generate more original video
for stations’ broadcasts and Websites by placing
more portable, IP-friendly gear in the hands of
reporters and photographers. The station group
is outfitting news crews with JVC GY-HM100
ProHD handheld camcorders; Flip cameras
or smartphones; and Dell laptops loaded with
Streambox Live, AP’s ENPS newsroom computer
software, Adobe Premiere editing software
and 3G cellular aircards for transmitting packages
back from the field.

What the "Next Generation Newsroom Project"
is not, stresses Addalia, is a move to cut staff by implementing a
"one-man band" or "multimedia journalist" approach
where a reporter is also responsible for shooting and editing their video as
well as writing a news script. Instead, Hearst is sending out two-person
"Next Generation" crews, consisting of a reporter and camera
operator/editor, to supplement the existing coverage being produced by crews in
traditional live trucks and bring breaking news to viewers faster.

"This program is not designed to cut manpower, or
put one person on the street instead of two," says Addalia.
"It's to enable reporters and photographers to send back content
immediately when they get to the scene of a news event."

The idea behind the project, which was conceived three
years ago, was that every reporter on the street would have a Dell laptop which
would allow them to access the station's ENPS system on the go, as well
as a smartphone or Flip camera that would allow them to quickly capture images
from a scene. The laptop is equipped with Microsoft's Windows Media
Encoder, for basic file viewing capability, as well as Streambox's
encoding software for transmitting video over IP connections.

So far, the Next-Generation project is going well at the
14 stations where it's been rolled out, says Addalia, with upticks in
both ratings and Website views. Hearst plans to implement it at three more
stations this year, with the remaining eight news-producing Hearst stations
getting training next year.

Addalia sees the Next-Generation project as more of a
training program than a new technology rollout. Hearst has assembled a
cross-discipline team consisting of personnel from several sites, including a
reporter, editor, IT staffer and photographer/editor, which travels to stations
and spend three to four days training reporters and editors in how to use the
new tools.

"We're training our installed base of
reporters," says Addalia. "One of Hearst's strengths, and the
reason we're a news leader, is because we have very strong journalism in
group. We would be fools to abandon that for kids who just know the
technology."

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