Server support

Benedek Broadcasting station group sticks with the supplier it started with

When Benedek Broadcasting Corp. first started acquiring broadcast servers for commercial playback in 1994, ASC was pretty much the only supplier around. But the group continued to add to its 27 owned stations, five of which are satellites, and it currently has 25 servers from Leitch, which acquired ASC a year and a half ago.

"Now it's more a relationship thing," says Keith Bland, senior vice president of planning and technical operations for the Chicago-based station group. "We've had tremendous support from them. When we have a problem, they get someone on the phone and take care of it."

As Benedek has moved from the original VR-30s to VR-300s and 400s, the minor glitches the station group had experienced have ceased, Bland notes. Most were disk-drive problems that were quickly corrected in the field.

"All of our systems use RAID 5 architecture, so a disk-drive failure means no loss of data," he explains. "We've never lost a commercial as a result of any failure in the server system."

Benedek also experienced "minor" adapter issues, which Leitch has handled, even though it doesn't manufacture adapters, says Bland. But the company worked with Benedek to correct the problem, because the adapters support the whole system.

Last year, the group built a new plant for WHSV(TV) Harrisonburg, Va., shifting from analog to digital. Bland points out that it was a simple proposition to have Leitch convert the server from analog to digital.

"Every server we've bought from Leitch is still in service in its original configuration except for the disk drive," he notes. Only three of the group's servers are not Leitch. WMTV(TV) Madison, Wis., has a Sony server, and two recently acquired stations-wowt(tv) Omaha, Neb., and KAKE(TV) Wichita, Kan.-use Grass Valley Profiles.

In addition to using the Profiles for commercial storage and playback, these two stations also use them for program recording, storage and playback. In some instances, the Leitch servers run multiple channels, either from a single server or using multiple servers.

"In a couple of markets, we're feeding commercials and newscasts into CNN channels on local cable systems," he says.

In Columbia, Mo., ABC affiliate KMIZ(TV) and low-power FOX affiliate KQFX(TV) are run out of the same office.

For a full system including software, the Leitch servers can cost as little as $60,000 or as much as $200,000, depending on the amount of storage and number of channels.

Initially, says Bland, in moving from tape to servers, there are workflow problems. With a server, if content is modified, it must be treated as if it were brand new, and the previous content must be destroyed.

"With a tape machine," he adds, "you don't have to do that. But it's a small price to pay for replacing the tape machines and having people relearn the procedures in a few weeks."