Switcher and automation vendor Ross Video announced that it
has entered into a "long-term technology partnership" with station
group Gray Television to supply Gray with its OverDrive production automation
system, which uses software to control various newscast functions traditionally
handled by manual operators.
The OverDrive APC system has already been adopted by several
major station groups, including the NBC-owned stations, and is generally used
to achieve cost savings by reducing staff.
Gray, which operates 36 stations in 30 markets, said that it
plans to implement OverDrive across the group. Currently, it is using OverDrive
on-air at WOWT Omaha, Neb.; WCTV Tallahassee, Fla. and WIFR Rockford, Ill.,
with near-term plans to deploy it at WNDU South Bend, Ind. and KOLO Reno.
Gray VP of technology Jim Ocon said the Ross systems are
being installed primarily at stations making the switch from standard to
high-definition news. Ocon acknowledged that a reduction in full-time employees
was one of the logical benefits of installing an automation production system
like OverDrive, but he didn't provide any details on planned layoffs at
individual stations due to the move. He did say that WOWT Omaha is now running
newscasts with just two people.
Ocon, who first installed an HD OverDrive system at KREN
Reno when he worked for Pappas, said that allowing directors to do visually
complex moves with the Ross switcher through installing the automation system
was as important to him as the operational savings.
"It's not a case where we just want to do it to cut
bodies," said Ocon. "We also want a better newscast."