NAB 2012: An Eye Out for EfficienciesSolutions for doing more with less remains top priority 3/26/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern
An improved economy is encouraging
broadcasters and programmers
to bring longer shopping lists to this
year’s National Association of Broadcasting
Show, which runs April 14-19 in Las Vegas.
But interviews with a selection of technologists
and engineers who oversee more than 45
broadcast and cable channels in the U.S. indicate
that many of their investments will be designed
to streamline their operations, reduce
costs or make it possible to deliver more content
to more devices on much tighter budgets.
That has made automation, channel in a box
solutions, media asset management systems,
less costly IT infrastructure, technologies using
open systems or standards and software
that can streamline workflows the most highprofile needs.
But not everybody
is feeling the squeeze;
a number of companies,
and ESPN, are also reporting
plans to build
major new facilities,
and others will be
taking a close look at
as 4K cameras that
deliver much higher
resolution than the current HD standard.
Most companies report that they will be bringing
a similar amount of people to the NAB show
this year compared to 2011, though NBCU will
hit the Strip with a much leaner contingent.
Fox: Integration, Ingest and IT
Improved file-based workflows, a more
streamlined ingest system and next-generation
master controls are among the major
technologies engineers at Fox Networks will
be closely examining during this year’s NAB,
reports Jim Hopkins, senior VP at Fox
Networks Engineering and Operations.
“We have made a lot of progress with fi lebased
workflows,” Hopkins explains. “But we
still have islands of file-based workflows that
we want to tie together from a media asset
management point of view, and also from a
content sharing point of view, so that the media
can be more efficiently shared across multiple
platforms and multiple facilities.”
Another major focus for Hopkins and his
team will be the creation of a common ingest
system. “We want to bring in content and record
it once and make it available for distribution
in multiple formats, rather than recording
and storing it multiple times,” he adds.
Beyond that, Fox is also looking at building
what Hopkins is calling “non-traditional master
controls” at its network facility that would rely
more heavily on IT technologies.
“We feel like traditional master controls are
expensive, not very flexible and they aren’t
meeting the new workflow needs of newer
media,” he says. “So we want to build something
that is really powerful from a production
point of view, yet easy to use and configurable
so we can better manage our resources.”
NBCUniversal: Looking for Scale
After creating a much more standardized
infrastructure for its network and cable properties
in recent years, NBCUniversal will be
focusing on technologies to further integrate
those operations and on solutions
that can cost-effectively expand the
amount of content they deliver, says
Ian Trombley, general manager, East
Coast television and on-air operations
“I’m faced with exponential growth
in linear, non-traditional, multichannel
and multiplatform distribution
but I can’t increase my costs along
with the amount of growth in the
volume of content,” Trombley says.
To help address that issue, Trombley will be
paying particularly close attention to channel
in the box solutions. “We don’t see it as a silver
bullet or think that one size fits all, but we
think it is a very interesting development for the
multichannel playback environment,” he says.
NBCU execs also note that their teams are
interested in control room automation systems,
systems for multiplatform distribution
and technologies using open systems and
standards, such as FIMS (the Framework for
Interoperability of Media Services) that simplify
the process of integrating different products.
“We spend a lot of time, engineering resources
and money integrating systems, and that needs
to get a lot easier,” says Jeff Mayzurk, general
manager, West Coast technical operations,
operations and technical services, NBCUniversal.
This is particularly important because they
will be “focusing more on software than hardware
at this year’s NAB,” he says.
One major project that will be top of mind for
the NBCU teams at NAB is the construction of
a new broadcast center on the Universal lot that
is scheduled to go live in 2013. “We are trying
to design true state-of-the-art facilities that do a
better job of integrating IT and IP networks into
the broadcast facility,” notes Mayzurk.
Both Trombley and Mayzurk praise vendors
for moving to more open systems. “There is a lot of focus on next-generation tools that will
help us further integrate the workflow capabilities
we need,” Mayzurk says.
PBS: Automating for Quality
As public broadcasters continue to struggle
with tight budgets, PBS’ contingent at NAB
this year will be paying particularly close attention
to technologies that allow them “to
squeeze every bit of efficiency we can out of
our operations,” reports John McCoskey, chief
technology officer at PBS.
These include: systems for better automating
quality control, service-oriented architectures,
FIMS implementations that would simplify
the complex process of integrating multiple
vendors, and technologies for expanding PBS’
ongoing shift to an IP-based infrastructure.
PBS will also be involved in a number of
demonstrations. During the PBS Technology
Conference in Las Vegas just before NAB, PBS
will introduce its WARN Act implementation
and its Next Generation Interconnection System
(NGIC) for file-based distribution of content.
Then at NAB, PBS will demonstrate how
mobile DTV signals broadcast from the Vegas
PBS station can deliver emergency alerts.
Beyond that, McCoskey will be looking at
4K cameras and displays and talking to PBS
stations about some of the technologies the
local stations might use to centralize their
master control operations.
The public broadcaster is also in the middle
of a major upgrade of its operations building,
which should be completed in 2013. “We believe
it will take us to the next level of quality
of service to our stations,” McCoskey notes.
ESPN: Eyes Wide Open
ESPN teams at NAB will have “eyes wide
open” for developments in a number of newer
technologies this year, says Chuck Pagano,
executive vice president of technology at ESPN.
At the top of his list will be solutions to take
“IP transport in production deeper and deeper
into our infrastructure,” as part of a strategy of
going to an “all IP fabric,” Pagano adds.
The ESPN crew will also be talking to vendors
about next-generation solutions for a new 195,000 square-foot digital center that is expected
to go live in 2014. “We’re starting to
challenge our vendors to come up with the
new solutions we need,” Pagano notes.
Also important during this year’s NAB will
be solutions for cross-platform delivery, automated
production control room solutions,
virtual technologies, next-generation master
control rooms, transcoding technologies, simplified editing systems, playback solutions
that have a smaller footprint and voice recognition
systems for closed-captioning and meta
data, Pagano says.
And ESPN is paying close attention to 4K
technologies even though displays capable of
rendering 4K images will not be widely available
for several years. “Our sports fans are
voracious adopters of new technology, so we
are starting to play around with 4K in the
same way we spent some time playing around
with 3D early on,” Pagano says.
Discovery: Still in Launch Mode
As Discovery Commnications continues to
launch new services, particularly in international
markets, the programmer is looking for
technologies to make that process much less
costly and more efficient, notes Glenn Oakley,
Discovery executive VP, media technology,
production and operations.
“We had 17 launches of new feeds outside
the U.S. last year and I expect to have over
20 new launches this year,” Oakley says. “We
have nearly doubled the number of channels
around the world in the last four or five years.”
But as Discovery continues to localize its services
and expand into new markets, the programmer
is increasingly looking at channel in a
box and other solutions to reduce costs. “Localization
opens up the opportunity of local insertion
ads, but it also means that each channel has
to be cheaper and operate more efficiently than
the last one because the revenue opportunities
get smaller and smaller,” Oakley notes.
As part of its international expansion,
Discovery is also launching more HD feeds,
which will require some hi-def upgrades to
And the Discovery team at NAB will be eying
technologies to expand and speed up its global
file-based delivery of content and to more closely
tie together its global operations, Oakley says.
Another major focus will be solutions for
streamlining and speeding up the delivery of
content to multiple devices, he adds.
“I give vendors the same speech I give my
own people,” Oakley says. “We are expanding
and growing into new markets, but each market
and channel is smaller. That means we have
had to run more efficient operations, and we
are challenging our vendors to understand that
dynamic and deliver lower-cost solutions.”
Scripps: 360-Degree Technologies
As Scripps delivers more content to more
devices and expands both its syndicated and
international offerings, the programmer is looking
for technologies that can support the company’s
“strategy of 360-degree exploitation of [our]
content,” says Mark Hale, executive VP, operations
and CTO, Scripps Networks Interactive.
As part of that effort, Hale says Scripps will
eye new technologies to help contain costs
and replace aging systems with solutions that
can “scale to meet the much more dynamic
Specific technologies Hale and his team are
keeping in mind include: innovative solutions
for automated workflow solutions; 3D production
technologies; new file-based encoding and
transcoding systems; better file-based workflows; cloud-based solutions; intelligent monitoring
systems; closed-captioning systems for
online delivery; advertising sales management
systems; and more robust digital rights and
asset management solutions.
“Our deals are getting more complex as we
exploit media in all these different areas,” Hale
says. “I can see entirely revamping our media
workflow solution in the next 12-24 months
with the new affiliate deals that are being struck.”
The Weather Channel:
Looking for a Better MAM
After completing work on a new Content
Creation Center late last year, Weather Channel
is now eying a major upgrade to its media asset
management (MAM) system that it hopes to
implement over the next 18 months, says Nathan
Smith, VP of broadcast operations.
Rather than implementing a number of different
systems for better managing its media assets,
Smith says Weather Channel is looking for a
single system to handle as much as possible.
“We want to take a holistic approach rather than
just replacing a piece here and a piece there,” he
says. “I’ll be looking for something that will give
me 80% of what I need in one package.”
Also at NAB, Smith will be on the lookout for
solutions to simplify the process of bringing in
content from the field, technology for speedier
processing of user-generated content and systems
for handling the closed-captioning of content
delivered to online and other digital platforms.