In today's business environment, the mantra is simple: Get the most out of what you already have. That is just what the Sinclair Broadcast Group is doing with Telestream's technology and Sinclair's wide-area network (WAN) that connects its stations.
Telestream's FlipFactory, ClipMail and TrafficManager products will be used by Sinclair's News Central facility and the stations to allow for non–real-time news content and promos to be shared along the company's WAN in a way that Sean Fanning and Napster could only dream of. And the potential applications outweigh the current ones.
"We've only begun to use it, and, as we expand our implementation, I'm sure the stations will think of new ways to use it," says Del Parks, Sinclair vice president of engineering and operations.
Parks has spent more than three years researching how Sinclair would send content between its News Central hub facility and the stations. FlipFactory was the choice because it maximizes use of the WAN and also doesn't require replacement of existing equipment.
"For me. the question was how can I leverage our terrestrial links and still get the job done?," says Parks. "So we upgraded a lot of our circuits, and the improved cost of bandwidth helped [keep costs down]."
The content at the Hunt Valley facility is stored on an Avid Unity system at DV25 resolution. At the station end, a mix of equipment is used to store the content from the Hunt Valley facility: Some stations have Leitch servers, some have Pinnacle servers, and others have tape machines. The advantage of the FlipFactory system is that it automatically translates the content into the format that matches that on the receive end.
"We don't have to go out and replace servers," says Parks, "and those who don't have servers can play it back out of ClipMail and record it to tape."
The first step using the system requires setting up a "factory," or folder, for each station using TrafficManager. When content is placed in that folder, it is flipped to the correct format for that station. The ClipMail system is used like a video–e-mail system to send the content. It is transmitted at 8 MB/s, and Parks says transmission time is typically three times real time, depending on traffic.
The system is currently being used for weather, news content and station promos. Previously, promos were sent out via Airborne, and some will still be sent via Airborne, according to Parks. But the Telestream system can easily get transmission done faster and cheaper.
"We pay for our WAN 24 hours a day so, if we send promos out overnight using this system, it's no big deal," says Parks. "We own the pipeline. If we don't use it, shame on us."
Parks envisions stations' potentially using the system to work more closely together and improve on-air news product. For example, a station on the East Coast could call up a far-flung station where news is happening and request the station to send out a crew and get a couple minutes of footage.
"There are no downsides," says Parks. "Technology is a tool box. If you have a nail, you use a hammer. It's all about picking the right tool for the right job in the right time frame. This is pretty exciting for us."