Fox looks for innovative value

Setos still on the hunt for networking technologies that deliver on the promise

Andy Setos has a simple philosophy when it comes to NAB. "NAB is a nice show for things that you have to see performance of," he explains. "I always like to say that if it doesn't work at NAB, put it out of your mind. And if it does work at the NAB, be very suspicious."

Last year, Setos went to the show in search of network technologies that would allow Fox to more efficiently operate.

This year, that hunt will continue, as Setos looks to find an approach that will allow him to, at least, be suspicious.

"As always, things take longer than you hope they would take," he adds. "We're looking for maturation in all these network technologies that were previewed, if you will, at last year's NAB."

As always, a major goal is to fine products and technologies that help the bottom line and quality. "We're always looking for things that reduce costs or let us do things we otherwise do for a cost we could swallow because there's a benefit there."

He adds that the area of storage and transport, which he notes is a "fancy way" of describing what used to be routers and tape machines, continues to be a major focus of the Fox Network technical team's energy.

"We're always looking for new storage and transport, and we continue to have to wait for ATM, Ethernet and RAID array products to mature into the video and audio application," he says.

As for what is missing regarding that maturity? "All of it," he explains. "There's no plug and play; there are scaling difficulties and cost issues."

He adds that while Fox expects that the costs should fundamentally be in-line with the network's needs, that still isn't the case.

"And there are other glaring systemic holes, like metadata," he says. "Metadata is not yet adequately mature and standardized so that you can exploit these systems."

The issues that Setos brings up are ones facing every broadcaster, particularly as distribution and intake systems continue to use satellite, Internet and other methods to get content to each other and consumers.

"Process control technology is what makes the industrial world run," adds Setos. "And while we've been using it for many years, it's still not robust and so we're always looking for improvements there."

Setos explains that process control means more than simple device control. "To me it means all sorts of things, controlling the router, recording control of incoming feeds."

The problem in the broadcast industry is that process control technology is an area that still needs to be smoothed out and made simpler. "It's a step behind where it is in the industrial world, so we still have to put it together piecemeal. There's always room for improvement."

Setos will definitely have his head and hands full at NAB as he looks for solutions to the above-mentioned needs, but he'll also keep his eyes open for other technologies.

"I start at the small booths first," he explains. "The large manufacturers don't make a secret of what they show, so what we're looking for are the surprises, the small companies and innovation."

He adds that small companies have played an important role in technological advancement.

"In the history of broadcasting, innovation is equally rich from very small unknowns to the large well-knowns. It doesn't mean that because it's in the back of the hall on an 8-foot table you should cast it aside."

He'll also be looking to get his hands on equipment, particularly the gear that needs to be seen beyond a specification sheet

"There's a gap between kicking the tires and reading the specifications," he says. "For some products, you can read the specifications, and you're satisfied. But there are other products that need to be seen as to how they perform dynamically, like a robotic tape machine. NAB is a nice place for that and is a good indicator of what's up."