Newport Television, the 56-station group controlled by private equity firm Providence Equity Partners and run by broadcast veteran Sandy DiPasquale, is making a large investment in “ProHD” HDV-format cameras from JVC to transition its local news production to high-definition.
The deal is a significant win for the cost-effective JVC ProHD line, which has found favor with both large groups like Scripps Television and Raycom Media and small broadcasters like Waterman Broadcasting in Florida.
Newport, which consists of the former Clear Channel Television stations, is buying over 200 units of JVC's ProHD 250 and 200 series camcorders to convert both studio production and field reporting to HD. The company, which runs duopolies and/or secondary digital affiliates in most markets, is first taking delivery of the new JVC units at CBS affiliate WKRC Cincinnati, which it hopes to convert to HD news this year.
Newport, which offers news at 23 stations in 18 markets, then hopes to convert WTEV and WAWS Jacksonville, Fla., and WOIA San Antonio to HD news production next year. The rest of the Newport stations that produce news will get the JVC ProHD camcorders in 2010.
“We're trying to equip everybody with the new camera,” says Newport vice president of engineering Mike DeClue. “In our principle markets, one of the strategies we're trying to employ is a commonality of experience and equipment.”
Newport is also trying to adopt IT technology and file-based workflows wherever possible, so it will be pairing the JVC camcorders with Firestore hard disk recorders from Focus Enhancements to store video, with the cameras' integral HDV tape recorder serving as backup. The group is evaluating server-based production systems and nonlinear editors and aims to move completely to file-based production in a few years.
Another objective for Newport was to make its conversion to HD news as cost effective as possible. The list prices of the ProHD 200 and 250 series camcorders, which start at $5,995 and $10,995, respectively (prices vary depending on lens choice), made them very attractive compared to competing professional camcorders like Sony XDCAM and Panasonic P2, says DeClue, particularly when they are paired with 100-gigabyte Firestore drives that cost just over $1,000.
“Our target was to have an average camera-deployed price at $10,000 or less, and I think we came very close to accomplishing that,” says DeClue.
DeClue also likes JVC's plan to offer a solid-state recording option for the ProHD camcorders next year by licensing Sony's XDCAM EX MPEG-2 camera format and the SxS flash memory cards that it uses to create a new dockable solid-state recorder. DeClue looked seriously at Sony's handheld XDCAM EX camcorder, both for its recording media and its sub-$10,000 price, but preferred the more traditional JVC ergonomics.
One of the big cost-savings with the ProHD approach is that the 250 series camera has several features that allow it to be easily configured for studio use through an optional adapter, a capability which customers like Raycom and Waterman are currently utilizing. Newport is already installing 250 series cameras in the studio at WKRC Cincinnati to replace the existing traditional standard-definition studio cameras.
“These are much higher-resolution than the old studio cameras that cost five times as much,” says DeClue.
While Newport is certainly taking a cost-conscious approach to HD news by adopting ProHD, it is still making a sizable investment amidst a tough economy. DeClue credits DiPasquale, who is a Newport investor in addition to serving as president and CEO, and the rest of his management team for staying the course. “I've got to take my hat off to him,” DeClue says “He's been a stalwart ally in taking care of all of this.”