Technology

Tapeless at Twenty

NBC News Channel plans major upgrades for 20th anniversary 12/20/2010 12:01:00 AM Eastern

Charlotte Web

Over the past 20 years, new technologies have played a signifi cant role in the successful operations of NBC News Channel.

Prior to launching the channel in 1991, Bob Horner, the network's president, had run a similar operation for CBS. "It was an excellent service, but was New York-based. What struck me was the relatively high percentage of our total cost that went into various kinds of overhead that did not translate into content or service for our clients," Horner recalls. "So when I made the proposal to NBC to develop this operation, we were really focused on finding a way to get a maximum percentage of our total expenses used to create content and services."

Fortunately, satellite delivery methods had advanced to the point where they were able to set up shop in 1991 in a relatively lowcost part of Charlotte. "Ten years earlier, we wouldn't have had so many options," Horner explains. "Charlotte has worked out very well, and I think [it has] allowed us to make more progress than we would have been able to make if we'd been forced to spend more money on overhead."

Early on, the operation was one of the first to embrace digital satellite transmission, and in 1999 became "the first organization of our kind to go into the world of file-based delivery," Horner says. "We always wanted to use technology in a way that would give us a competitive advantage so we could put more money into news and do a better job of serving our clients."

NBC News Channel turns 20 on Jan. 1,
with plans to give its Charlotte, N.C.,
newsroom a major facelift. Over the
next year, the division will be moving to a tapeless
workfl ow and preparing to deploy new file
servers as part of a push to strengthen its operations
in the run-up to 2012, which is shaping up
to be one of the busiest,
most challenging news
cycles in years.

“We start 2012 with the
Super Bowl on NBC and
then we have the Summer
Olympics on NBC,”
notes Bob Horner, president
of NBC News Channel,
which feeds affiliates,
international clients and
NBC’s various broadcast
and cable operations news
stories and footage from
its 10,000 sq. ft. facility in
Charlotte. “And while all
of that is going on, we obviously
have the political
races and the presidential
campaign; 2008 was
a tough year, but I think
2012 will be even more intense.”

Next year’s first major upgrade will be the installation
of an Avid system that will shift the
NBC News Channel newsroom from a tape-based
workflow to a completely non-linear, tapeless operation.
“Our technical engineers and IT teams
are deep into the project planning, and we anticipate
we’ll go live with that system on a regular
basis around July 1,” says Horner.

The new system will improve the quality of
the news feeds NBC delivers because they won’t
have to dump video from tapes into servers.
It will also speed up the newsroom’s ability to
deliver more content to more platforms. Each
day the operation—which serves around 200
NBC affiliates, 15 key international clients and
NBC’s national broadcast and cable news operation—
delivers about 250 video stories, sends out live coverage of approximately 25 events, codes
about 20 stories for NBC affiliate Websites and
responds to requests for archival footage. Overall,
Horner estimates NBC News Channel pumps
out more than 1,000 items per day with a staff of
about 100—80 of them full-timers.

NBC News Channel is also in the early stages
of acquiring a new set of
proprietary servers that
are expected to be deployed
in late 2011 or
early 2012 at NBC affiliates
and other clients that
receive its content. “In the
first quarter, we’ll be having
serious internal discussions
about what we need
in our next server package,”
Horner says. “Then
sometime in the spring,
we will start talking to
vendors about who might
be the best one to work for
us on the next round” of
server deployments.

That will certainly be
to NBC’s advantage, given
the big year down the
road. “By making these two big technological upgrades
in 2011, we will be able to devote all our
staff’s time to our coverage and our client services
in 2012,” Horner says.

E-mail comments to
gpwin@oregoncoast.com

Charlotte Web

Over the past 20 years, new technologies have played a signifi cant role in the successful operations of NBC News Channel.

Prior to launching the channel in 1991, Bob Horner, the network's president, had run a similar operation for CBS. "It was an excellent service, but was New York-based. What struck me was the relatively high percentage of our total cost that went into various kinds of overhead that did not translate into content or service for our clients," Horner recalls. "So when I made the proposal to NBC to develop this operation, we were really focused on finding a way to get a maximum percentage of our total expenses used to create content and services."

Fortunately, satellite delivery methods had advanced to the point where they were able to set up shop in 1991 in a relatively lowcost part of Charlotte. "Ten years earlier, we wouldn't have had so many options," Horner explains. "Charlotte has worked out very well, and I think [it has] allowed us to make more progress than we would have been able to make if we'd been forced to spend more money on overhead."

Early on, the operation was one of the first to embrace digital satellite transmission, and in 1999 became "the first organization of our kind to go into the world of file-based delivery," Horner says. "We always wanted to use technology in a way that would give us a competitive advantage so we could put more money into news and do a better job of serving our clients."

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