The Ties That BindTLC’s royal wedding coverage just the beginning of Discovery’s unprecedented 2011 global integration plans 5/02/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern
As U.S. channels look to capitalize on
rapidly growing international markets,
global programmers are increasingly
looking for ways to bring their international operations
and domestic facilities closer together.
One illustration of that trend can be found
at Discovery Communications, which has been
working to digitize its operations and link them
closer together so that it can quickly and efficiently move programming around the world,
a strategy that played a key role last week in
coverage of the royal wedding on TLC.
Discovery planned live productions in London
and in Times Square, and to distribute
those feeds to 10 different channels (in 17 languages)
around the world, including
the U.S., Glenn Oakley,
executive VP, media technology,
production and operations
at Discovery Communications,
said shortly before the event.
“It is unprecedented for our
company, and it is all possible
because of what we have been
doing in terms of our global infrastructure,”
While TLC’s wedding coverage
got a major boost from the
upgrades, the push to better
tie all of Discovery’s operations
together is being driven by the
company’s large and rapidly
growing global operations.
International accounted for
33% of Discovery’s total revenue in 2010, and those
operations are an increasingly important part of the
company’s bottom line. Discovery’s operating income
before depreciation and amortization grew by 22% internationally
last year, double the 11% growth rate of
the media giant’s domestic networks.
Last year alone, Discovery launched 23 channels,
including three in the U.S., and the company now distributes
138 networks and 169 feeds in 43 languages
around the world.
To reduce the cost of that expansion while trying to
localize its channels as much as possible, Discovery has
been looking for operational efficiencies. “We could
build a local operation in all the countries where we
have channels, but then you would be reinventing the
wheel over and over again,” notes Oakley.
Closer to home, Discovery’s West Coast operations
have also expanded dramatically in the last two years.
That has made it increasingly important to find a way
to move digital files and programming between the
company’s three facilities in Los Angeles, its global
headquarters in Silver Spring, Md., and its broadcast
center in Sterling, Va.
Following the eruption last year of a volcano in Iceland
that shut down air traffic across
Europe and made it difficult to deliver
tapes there, Discovery began
beefing up its file-based delivery to
London. Since then, it has also been
expanding connectivity between its
Sterling broadcast center and Los Angeles and Miami,
which is the company’s regional hub for Latin America.
More work remains to be done in Discovery’s plan to
closely link its regional hubs with its operations
in Sterling and Silver Spring. But some shortform
promos are already being pushed from two
of its facilities in Los Angeles to Sterling, and
“we just had a record week of pushing fi les to
Miami,” notes Don Johnson, Discovery senior
VP of U.S. media operations.
Discovery is also finishing up a teleport at
its Sterling facility for satellite uplinks that had
previously been handled by outside companies.
“It will give us much better command
and control over our signal
and operations,” Johnson notes.
To speed up the delivery of programming,
most of Discovery’s European
production centers are now
connected digitally to London. The
company is following a similar path
in Asia, where its regional hub is located
“We had been really suffering getting
tapes into India,” where tapes
might be delayed for as much as
three weeks getting through customs,
To overcome that problem, the
company’s Indian office is now
equipped with multiple digital distribution
paths. “We just launched
our sixth channel, which is more
than any other cablecaster in the
market,” Oakley said.
Besides increasing satellite and
fiber connectivity for file-based delivery,
a process that will continue
this year, Discovery has centralized
planning for its satellite capacity
under John Miller, senior VP of
technology and distribution, and
has worked to acquire global rights to content whenever
“It really comes down to creating the infrastructure
and mindset so that the company can deliver on its
global growth plans,” Oakley said.
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