the years, WRAL Raleigh (N.C.) has been a pioneer in HD as well as an early
adopter of mobile DTV broadcasts and digital platforms. Today, the station
produces 9Ã‚Â½ hours of news daily. Its website, which streams massive amounts of
on-air and original content each month, is regularly either the No. 1 or No. 2
local media site in the country, with more than 100 million page views and
around 3.3 million unique users per month. To put that achievement into
perspective, WRAL operates in a market with just 2.2 million people.
Those numbers also go a long way toward explaining why Peter Sockett, WRAL
owner Capital Broadcasting's director of engineering and operations, is being
honored by B&C with a Technology Leadership Award.
Born in Canada, Sockett admits that he got into broadcasting somewhat by
accident after completing a degree in engineering in 1993. "I sent out resumes,
and TV sounded like the most fun -- it beat the heck out of working at a power
station," he quips.
Sockett honed his broadcast skills at several Canadian stations, "in a kind of trial by fire." His first stateside
job was as assistant chief engineer at WWJ Detroit in 1998, which led to the
top engineering job at WBBM Chicago in 2000. In 2003, he moved to WRAL, which
already had a reputation for technical innovation. "We were the first HD station in the country,"
Sockett has continued that tradition with a number of industry "firsts" or near-firsts. Under his leadership, WRAL was
the first station in the country to set up an HD newsroom system with Bitcentral.
In 2005, they launched an HD helicopter, missing out on being the first U.S.
station to do so by one week. WRAL did early tests of mobile DTV broadcasts in
2008. And when they went live in 2009, they were the first station in the
country to send mobile DTV signals to city buses.
As part of a massive upgrade to their facilities, with multiple new control
rooms supplying programming for five stations, WRAL has also built an
impressive infrastructure for multiplatform content delivery. "We do a lot of
productionÃ¢â‚¬" school board meetings, court cases, soccer that streams on the
Web," and sometimes on digital subchannels, he says.
Sockett has also been experimenting with streaming video to mobile devices. "The same week I heard about this award, I heard
we got a patent [for geo-fenced mobile streaming] technology," he says.
"We really believe that the future of
broadcasting is being local," he adds. "So it's all about finding ways to produce that content
quick, better and faster."
Still, with all of his success in pushing the boundaries of improving local
content, Sockett says, "I feel like I'm just getting an award for doing my job.
I've had an amazing opportunity here at WRAL, with owners who believe in local
broadcasting and who have encouraged so much innovation."