If there's one word that sums up what is on the minds of engineering heads at station groups across the country, it is this: deadline. With the May 2002 deadline for the beginning of DTV broadcasts from commercial stations looming, station-group capital budgets, energies and thinking are focused on transmitter installation, antenna installation and tower modification. For many groups, installation now seems to be a matter of getting construction permits pushed through and getting modifications and installations under way.
The effect that this focus on the DTV conversion will have on NAB shopping this year remains to be seen. But while budgets may be dedicated toward the DTV rollout, attention will also be paid to other engineering areas. One area of general interest will be the move to centralcasting, but engineers seem split on how serious the technology offerings are. They seem to have an idea of what they'd like to do, but last-mile issues (and the more remote the station, the longer that last mile gets) and concerns over how all of the pieces come together and actually work in an era of metadata and file transfers also exist.
More than one broadcaster has said that you can tell who the technology pioneers are because they have arrows in their backs. Broadcasters this year seem to feel sufficiently comfortable with DTV technology to move forward. The question at this year's show is: Who will take the next round of arrows?