At NAB, Seeking Efficiencies and Upgrades Is Good GambleEngineers, program groups eye a Vegas spree to find streamlines, savings 3/25/2013 12:01:00 AM Eastern
Judging by the comments of top engineers at many of the
country’s largest programming groups, the 2013 NAB show
in Las Vegas April 6-11 will be busy, with a number of networks
working on major upgrades or new facilities and many channels
flush with cash from last year’s strong ad market.
In addition to some major new facilities being built at Fox and
ESPN, many channels are also looking for ways to save money
in their operations with technologies to streamline operations,
simplify the process of delivering more content to multiple devices
and deploy new media asset management systems that
might make it easier for them to manage how they use, monetize
and distribute their content.
Although Ultra HD or 4K broadcasts are probably years
away from reaching most homes, many top engineers also report
that they’ll be taking a close look at the next generation
of video imaging and production.
Here’s a cross section of what nine top technologists at a number
of networks and major channel groups say will be high on
their priorities lists both at NAB and through the rest of the year.
Fox: In Search of Start-Ups
With at least two new channels scheduled
to launch this year, Fox’s tech teams will be
scouring the halls of NAB for equipment and
technologies for the new Fox Sports 1 and an
entertainment channel, reports Richard Friedel,
executive VP and general
manager of Fox Networks engineering
“We are looking at all kinds
of things—master control, automation,
those launches,” he says.
To handle playout, they are
solutions. “That seems to be
where the marketing is going,”
Friedel says. “We have deployed
channel-in-the-box solutions for smaller channels
and for DR [disaster recovery] solutions in
the past and have had good success with them.”
While they expect to make a decision on a
new media asset management system for FS1
prior to NAB, Fox is also looking for a wide
range of solutions for both traditional
and broadband distribution
of their product. “FS1 will
have an authenticated TV Everywhere
stream and we are looking
for streaming, authentication and
TV Everywhere-type technologies,”
While Friedel doesn’t see any
immediate move to 4K broadcasts,
he notes that Fox Sports is
already using 4K equipment for
replays in sports and will continue to look for
improvements in 4K cameras and equipment.
The company also is replacing old equipment
at the network center built in the 1990s and as
part of that process is looking for such products
as servers and monitoring equipment.
NBCU: Moving to Open Systems
The programmer’s engineering teams will be
heading to Las Vegas with plans to look at a long
list of technologies for both multichannel operations
and multiplatform delivery.
On the multichannel side, these include new
automation technologies, software as a service,
streaming encoders, cost effective production
and control room tools and the “migration to
an end-to-end IP-based solutions,” says NBCUniversal
senior VP of engineering Keith Jackson.
“The trend to IP as an industry has a long way
to go, but I’m encouraged by seeing a lot of
migration to IP upstream in editing and media
preparation. It will be interesting to see how IP
is getting incorporated into routing, encoding
and transmission systems at NAB.”
Regarding multiplatform, they will be looking for technologies to simplify the process of distributing
the content and streamlining workflows
and developments in transcoding and file-based
standards. There’s a growing interest in supplying
live streams of channels, and Jackson plans to
explore systems for delivering those feeds.
Most importantly, he will also be taking a
close look at the move to standards and open
systems. “The challenge we’ve always faced is
interoperability across vendors and platforms,”
he says. “There has been a great momentum to
solve that but I’d like to see that accelerate.”
ESPN: Expanding Digital Production
Technologies for ESPN’s Digital Center 2,
which will have nearly 200,000 square feet of
space and is scheduled to start going online
in the first half of 2014, will be top of mind
for the company’s CTO Chuck Pagano and his
crew at this year’s NAB.
“We’ll be looking for new cameras, new sets
and a whole new infrastructure,” Pagano says.
Like ESPN’s first Digital Center, which broke
new ground in
when it opened
in 2004, Pagano
is pushing his engineers
a cutting edge
Digital Center 2.
One key effort
will be to make
the facility as future-
proof as possible and “be as format agnostic
as we can” so the arrival of new formats and
technologies won’t require major upgrades of its
“cardio-pulmonary infrastructure,” Pagano says.
To help prepare for new video formats, ESPN
will be taking a close look at Ultra HD or 4K
technologies. “We have been playing with native
4K but it is still very early,” Pagano says. “Right
now, it is truly a science project.”
In addition, Pagano says they’ll also be taking
a close look at OLED video monitors for
production, network technologies for reducing
bandwidth, new compression schemes
such as high efficiency video coding (HEVC),
communications gear and Audio Video Bridging
Signal Quality and Workflows
Equipment that can provide the best possible
signal quality and streamline workflows by tying together editing, production and
other infrastructure into media asset management
systems and archives will be first priority
in Las Vegas for Telemundo engineers,
reports Steve Kaplan, VP of operations at the
They will also
be taking a close
look at tools for
media and their
“On top of our
news, entertainment and sports, we produce
primetime novelas and we are always interested
in technologies that can make them look
as good as possible,” Kaplan says.
PBS: A Busy Two Weeks in Vegas
In addition to NAB 2013, PBS engineers
will be attending the PBS Technology Conference
between April 3-5 in Las Vegas, where
they will also be meeting with a number of
vendors and public stations to discuss a wide
range of technology issues.
For the network, PBS CTO John McCoskey
reports that “technologies for doing more without
spending more,” are top priorities.
He and his team will therefore be taking a
close look at automation tools, solutions for
streamlining file-based workflows and technologies
for doing quality checks in a more
automated fashion as it delivers more content
to more platforms. “It isn’t just for broadcast,
it’s for Netflix, Hulu, online and other places
where we are distributing versions,” he says.
The network will also be taking a close look
at archiving tools, IT infrastructures that might
reduce costs and Ultra HD.
During the PBS TechCon, some of the key
topics for stations will include centralizing
master control, the application of cloud-based
technologies, the implementation of the nonreal-
time delivery of content to stations and
PBS is also an active member of the Advanced
Television Systems Committee (ATSC)
and the Future of Broadcast Television (FOBTV)
initiative, both of which are trying to create
a more harmonized broadcast TV standard.
“We are a founding member of FOBTV,” Mc-
Coskey says. “I don’t want to say that creating
a worldwide standard isn’t a big challenge. But
I’m very encouraged by the involvement of top
broadcasters and TV engineering organizations
from all around the world.”
As part of those efforts to improve digital TV
technologies, McCoskey and his team will also
be actively discussing new emergency alert
systems and captioning systems.
Discovery: Very Broad-Minded
Unlike in recent years, when Discovery’s engineers
arrived at NAB focusing on only a few
technologies, the programmer’s list this year
will be a lengthy one.
“It is surprising the breadth of the projects
we’re undertaking,” says Glenn Oakley, executive
VP of media technology, production and
operations at Discovery Communications. “It
isn’t just the volume but the fact that we are
involved in so many different applications of
These include efforts to streamline file-based
workflows, digital program delivery, the creation
of a single file format for all their operations, Ultra
HD and 4K technologies, tools to better integrate
social media into their feeds, second-screen
applications, channel-in-the-box solutions for new international networks and upgrades to
their ever-growing international operations.
Oakley hopes to move to a global file format
in the second half of the year. “It is an important
initiative for cost
saving and efficiency,”
“We are looking
to vendors to
make it a reality
later this year.”
In terms of 4K,
Oakley says they
will be looking
at both production
and technologies for handling, distributing
and transmitting the high-resolution feeds.
“We are looking to see the next generation in
those areas,” he says. “Ultra HD and 4K is on
the horizon for us.”
Scripps: Next-Gen Broadcast Tech
Programmers’ primary broadcast facilities
are now over 10 years old, and Scripps will
be looking for new systems to replace them
in the coming years.
“Finding the next generation for new broadcast
and playout systems with be the big focus
for our time at NAB,” says Mark Hale, executive
VP of operations and chief technology officer at Scripps Networks.
As part of that effort, John Ajamie, senior
VP of broadcast operations and engineering
at the company, adds that they are exploring
new playback and server systems, next generation
automation systems and channel-ina-
box or integrated playout solutions.
aren’t close to
a decision yet,
Hale says that
they would like
to develop a system
to tie together
a way that would
make their operations much more efficient.
“Another highlight is that we are looking
for a next generation media asset management
system,” to replace the current system that is
nearly eight years old, says Hale.
Low-cost production technologies for digital
platforms, inexpensive channel-in-the-box solutions
for their international expansion and a
new graphics storage system are also on the list.
During the market, Hale also expects to
spend time with a number of their third-party
vendors, including SES for additional transponder
space and companies such as Sony
for systems to streamline workflows.
Weather Channel: Transmission,
Storage and MAM on Radar
“We have a massive amount of things on
our radar at NAB, both on the core broadcast
and transmission side as well as on the entire
digital content management and distribution
side,” says Bryson Koehler, CIO and executive
VP, The Weather Company. “We are looking
to really invest to take both our TV networks
as well as digital into the future.”
As part of that effort, the company is planning
upgrades to its
that it hopes to
have in place
by the end of
On the transmission
side, the upgrades will help them
better localize their contend and distribute it
more effectively and is part of a larger move
to an IP infrastructure that Koehler hopes to
achieve in the next two years.
Overall, “the goal is to create a one holistic
digital media capability that will power everything
you see on TV as well as digital or
mobile applications,” he says.
Koehler says he plans to spend time at NAB
talking to Sony about its Media Backbone
Conductor product; Harmonic about a variety
of storage applications; CDNs like Akamai;
cloud technology providers like Verizon;
and Dalet and Avid about MAM.
Golf Channel: Teeing Up
Having completed the launch of a major new
studio in early March, tech teams at the Golf
Channel are now busy working on a major upgrade
to their newsroom—so busy, in fact, that
they won’t actually be at NAB for the first time
in many years.
Instead, they’ve been meeting with vendors
in their facility for a shopping list that highlights
major topics many programmers and
broadcasters will be closely examining at this
year’s show—streamlining work"ows and the
challenge of upgrading archives so they can
better monetize their content.
The major improvement to its newsroom,
which went into operation at the end of March,
was part of an ongoing effort to significantly
improve workflow efficiencies and speed up
the way they can deliver content, notes Dan
Overleese, VP of network operations at the
channel. “We expanded the technology so that
any editor can sit down and look at the entire
work"ow to push and pull content,” he says.
Next up in “the continued development
of file-based workflows,” Overleese says, is a
major upgrade for their archive system. Golf
is currently in the process of digitizing some
13,000 tapes and has decided to use the new
Sony Optical Disk Archive solution for storage.
“We will be the first to use it,” he says.
The Sony system won’t be available for installation
until the summer, but the folks at
Golf are already using IPV’s Curator Production
Asset Management, which handles metadata
and material from Avid systems, Dixon
Sports Computing’s sports logger, Front Porch
Digital’s DIVArchive as well as the existing library
system. This is already giving the channel
faster access to its archives and has allowed
the launch of apps and other products
that rely heavily on the material.