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AP's $30 Million HD Upgrade - Broadcasting & Cable

AP's $30 Million HD Upgrade

News cooperative will begin offering HD reports by end of 2011
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The
Associated Press has committed to upgrading all of its facilities so it can
file news reports in high definition and more easily deliver content to a
variety of digital platforms. The news cooperative is planning to invest around
$30 million in the upgrade, which it says is their largest investment in video
since acquiring Worldwide Television News in 1998.

While
AP has been buying HD capable equipment for its facilities in recent years, the
upgrade will be a massive undertaking that will involve virtually every aspect
of its technical infrastructure. "It obviously a huge upgrade that goes all the
way through our acquisition process--our MCR [master control] infrastructure,
our production systems, our fiber and satellite infrastructure," explains Kurt
Rossi, vice president of global technology operations at AP in a lengthy
interview. "It is a major end to end undertaking."

AP
is also planning a rapid switchover to HD. "We will do the acquisition piece,
the production piece, [and other aspects] in parallel to the upgrades of the
production facilities in New York and Washington and our London operations,"
notes David Hoad, director of global video technology.

Hoad
adds that they hope to complete the upgrades to New York and London by the end
of the second quarter of 2011 and complete Washington by the end of the year.
"It is a fundamental rebuild," he says. "Rather than adapting the existing
system, we decided it was best to build a brand new system in parallel, then bring
it online, test it and do a very quick change over. We believe it would be
easier to manage that than trying to adapt and enhance [the existing] system."

The
upgrades will allow AP to begin delivering entertainment news reports by the
end of 2011, with sports and other news coverage to follow in 2012.

On
the acquisition side, AP began buying Panasonic P2 high def cameras earlier
this year and will be acquiring additional P2 cameras to its bureaus and
facilities around the world.

No
other vendors have been selected, however. "We are going to the market with our
RFPs [requests for proposals] to find the best technology choices," Hoad says.

Nor
has AP settled on an HD format. "We have a global footprint and different
broadcasters in different regions use different formats," Rossi notes. "We are
in the process of talking to our clients about what would be appropriate for
them and what would be best for our internal standards as well."

AP
will also be looking at its workflow and operations as it does the upgrade. "When
you are making large systems changes like this it is an opportunity revisit
your existing workflow and ask yourself `how can we do this better,'" Hoad
says.

At
the time they will also be looking for ways to make their content more
accessible to their clients and to upgrade their archive
so that it can handle HD content. "In general we want to make certain our video
is more accessible to our clients," Hoad notes.

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