The challenges and opportunities presented by the convergence of information technology with broadcast engineering — including how to make sure the TV industry competes for the best and brightest young tech minds — comes through as a theme in conversations with the honorees of this year’s Technology Leadership Awards.
This 20th annual class, who will be honored at an evening reception on Monday, April 24, at the NAB Show in Las Vegas, include IT and engineering leaders at station groups big and small and one tech leader who’s marking a 30th season associated with Major League Baseball.
While the evolution of broadcasting into content delivery over multiple platforms is on their minds, so too, for some at least, are the challenges associated with stations’ repacking after the broadcast spectrum incentive auction, and the benefits hoped for from the implementation of the ATSC 3.0 transmission standard now heading toward final adoption.
While some fret that maybe the tech leaders of the future don’t realize how cool an industry broadcasting is, these honorees share a love for the dynamic nature of this ever-changing business and know they have to be at the top of their games to serve their viewers, whenever, wherever and however.
Here is a closer look at this year’s Technology Leadership Award honorees.
Corporate Director of Engineering, Quincy Media
Quincy, Ill., native Brady Dreasler began his career with Quincy Media at WGEM in 1972 and over the years has gained experience in virtually every department at a TV and radio station. He has served as an operations manager and spent eight years in sales. That broad knowledge base gives him more of an ownership perspective than one might expect from a typical engineer, he said.
Dreasler became corporate director of broadcasting engineering in 1997 and oversees all technology, including engineering and information tech, for QMI; his work roster includes newspapers and 20 TV and radio stations.
“It’s never boring, and I enjoy the rapid pace of change,” he said. “Just when you think you’ve got something under control then there’s something new that you have to take a run at and understand and get up to speed on.”
Hence his advice to aspiring media folks: Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone.
QMI, while not the biggest broadcaster around, enjoys being able to react quickly to opportunities as a family-owned business. One example: QMI has drones and drone pilots working in every market, something many competitors can’t match. “We think it sets us apart,” Dreasler said, citing the fact that drones can deliver pictures from situations where even helicopters can’t perform. “It changes the kind of storytelling we can do. That’s our job, to do storytelling.” The engineers’ role, he added, is to help the storytellers “be better than the best.”
Dreasler serves on the NAB Technology Committee, the Advanced Television Systems Committee and the Imagine Communications Advisory Board. The industry’s changing conditions at the moment includes dealing with the repack of stations following the spectrum auction. A dozen Quincy stations are affected, moving up or down, he said.
Quincy’s WKOW in Madison, Wis., was an early tester of the upcoming ATSC 3.0 standard, which is rooted in Internet protocol technology and which Dreasler sees as a source of great opportunity for the broadcast TV industry.
“The beauty of the new system is it’s much more migrateable going forward,” he said, adding that it’s more of an open standard than the current one, which is in need of updates after 20-plus years. “It will last longer.”
Though he loves to travel, Quincy remains home and where he and his wife, Cheryl, raised their three children. And though WGEM is an NBC, Fox and The CW affiliate, he can be excused for watching KHQA, the local CBS/ABC station — that’s where his daughter Jenny, who followed her dad into the business, sits in the anchor chair.
VP, Chief Technology Officer, Graham Media Group
Mike Englehaupt got the broadcasting bug growing up in Winnetka, Ill., where his high school had a TV station and a radio station. “I just found that was the most intriguing, most exciting thing I had ever seen, and I never looked back.”
Ultimately — after initially working in radio (first at rock station WMET in Chicago), then in live sound engineering, in radio again and finally in TV — he advanced to his current position (since 2015), leading the information technology and engineering strategy for Graham Media Group. GMG owns seven local TV stations, each in a top-70 market and each recognized as a news leader.
Englehaupt is in a key role as GMG continues to evolve into a more digitally centric, IP- and IT-based media company.
He has led facility rebuilds, renovations and improvements; managed IT expansions; and driven energy efficiency and sustainability initiatives throughout his long career.
Englehaupt joined GMG after serving as director of broadcast operations and engineering with KPIX in San Francisco from 2003-13 and with KABC in Los Angeles from 1999-2003. Prior engineering assignments included WLS and WMAQ in Chicago and with Telemundo Network in Miami, Fla.
Among the bigger projects he has been involved with were building the new KABC broadcast center in Glendale, Calif., in 1999 and 2000 — “I was really happy to be part of that; that was the single largest project I ever worked on” — and renovations of WLS (begun in 1997) and of KPIX and KBCW in San Francisco. “Those three probably spanned the most years in my career and also were pretty significant,” he said.
Englehaupt said the broadcast industry’s top challenges and opportunities will come at the intersection of IT and more traditional broadcast engineering. Finding job candidates with the right blend of skills to take full advantage of continuous hardware and software advances is the challenge; further exploiting the IT landscape is the premier opportunity.
Regarding the former, GMG has well finding candidates with IT training and sometimes media technology from the military, he said, but many resumes fall short on relevant experience. “There’s a perception that broadcasting has somehow fallen out of favor,” he said. “I’m not sure that’s true but there’s certainly more of a perception about it.”
As to why: “I think we’ve got an identity problem,” he added. “I don’t think IT people see television as really sexy and something that they want to get into.”
That perception needs to change, he said, because “when people see media technology really is a pretty cool business to be in, I think it will attract more and more people.”
Perhaps that best explains his advice to career seekers, which also doubles as a good career philosophy: “Don’t be hesitant to challenge the status quo.”
Vice President, Broadcast Technology, ABC Owned Television Stations Group
Growing up in Michigan, Tish Graham said, she’d watch Walter Cronkite on the CBS Evening News and marvel at how footage from Vietnam would travel across to world and arrive at the TV in her living room in the Midwest. “I knew then I wanted to have a part in bringing compelling, important stories into people’s homes,” she said.
She fulfills that mission by leading the technology direction for the eight ABC-owned television stations in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Houston, Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and Fresno, Calif. She reports to Rebecca Campbell, president, ABC Owned Television Stations Group and ABC Daytime. Graham joined ABC in 1986 and has held broadcast engineering and IT management positions at KFSN in Fresno, WTVD in Durham, KABC in Los Angeles (as manager of advanced news systems) and KTRK in Houston.
She evaluates new and emerging technologies that will drive revenue and viewership and, collaborating across Disney-ABC Television Group, works with her team to identify and implement technologies to enhance broadcast excellence for the ABC-owned stations.
A key initiative is leading the technical, operational and strategic direction to support a content-first multiplatform delivery environment to enhance the consumer experience across all platforms. The charter: Implementing technologies to capture, maintain and utilize data-rich content in both a linear and digital environment through the acquisition, distribution and archival process.
To do that right means having the right people on board — a huge challenge, she noted, at a time when tech career-minded youth target Google or Amazon more than broadcast television stations.
The industry’s biggest challenge, she said, is “finding and maintaining a technology staff to maintain and innovate in an IP, cloud-based, nonlinear environment that also understands or has the desire to learn the linear side of the business. To do that, we may need to take a radically different approach to how we recruit people. We have to consider a wider range of disciplines and expertise than we typically would.”
The rapid convergence of content delivery over multiple digital and linear platforms is an opportunity, she added. “The challenge is overcoming the obstacles quickly — understanding that the right solution today may not be the right solution four months from now, and being flexible enough to change.”
From her earliest days as a TV fan, to her college internship and early engineering jobs at stations in Kansas, she’s maintained her love of the business. “It’s always different, it’s always changing,” she said. “How we deliver our pictures or our content or our brand — I am fascinated by that and I love to find new ways and better ways and more efficient ways” to serve ABC’s owned stations and, ultimately, viewers.
Executive VP, Chief Technology Officer, BAMTech
Joe Inzerillo likes sports and watches a lot of games. But after 30 seasons in professional baseball, he admitted, “it’s pretty hard for me to remember the pure fandom days.”
However, he maintains a fan’s excitement about how technology can help viewers see, courtesy of the athletes on the field, “how we ourselves are being better at being human, or superhuman as the case may be.”
His start in Major League Baseball came as a camera operator and tape engineer for the Chicago White Sox. He said he got that job by being in the right place at the right time: his dad, Tony Inzerillo, was the White Sox team photographer, and he was at the ballpark on a weekend when someone was needed to fill in for someone who’d called in sick.
He now oversees all aspects of technology for BAMTech, the leading technology services and video streaming company owned by Major League Baseball Advanced Media, The Walt Disney Co. and the National Hockey League.
BAMTech emerged out of MLB Advanced Media’s overall digital business in August 2016, the catalyst being when Disney agreed to pay $1 billion for a 33% stake.
Even before that huge affirmation, Inzerillo and his MLBAM colleagues knew their work was important to the leagues and content providers they served. “We are definitely in the world where you’ve got to be really good at it, and we have to reach that next generation or we risk getting left by the wayside.”
“Nobody is actually born a baseball fan,” he noted. Some are predisposed to it, because their mom or dad might love the game. “But you’ve got to earn it and you have to be relevant and you have to be where people are,” with the right product offering.
Prior to joining BAMTech, Inzerillo was chief technology officer for MLB, including MLBAM and MLB Network, and was responsible for the technology powering the successful launch of expanded instant replay, the first live sporting events to stream on iPhone and iPad, the Tech Emmy Awardwinning MLB. TV, the installation of iBeacon technology, building a reliable mobile connectivity through new WiFi and DAS infrastructure and creating a revolutionary player tracking system to measure every play on the field, among other innovations. He also was chief technology officer of the United Center, home of the Chicago Bulls and Chicago Blackhawks.
Asked what his industry’s biggest technology challenges are, he said, “Scaling to a larger number of users through an increasingly complex ecosystem of devices and use cases.” As for the biggest technology opportunities: “The future of media consumption is streaming. Many methods will continue to exist, but it’s the one that is going to grow the most.”
Chief Technical Officer, Senior VP of Engineering, NBCUniversal Operations and Technical Services
Keith Jackson, who joined NBCUniversal in 2004 after a decade at Sony Electronics, is responsible for leading the design, implementation and support of all technology, software and infrastructure for Operations and Technical Services, while ensuring reliable content delivery and linear origination across the media company’s portfolio.
Since coming to NBCU, Jackson, whose first job in the industry was as an engineer at the British Broadcasting Corp. in London, has implemented technical initiatives to support emerging platforms, new customer consumption behaviors and business innovations. Those innovations include the implementation of TV Everywhere across linear and nonlinear platforms, leading the design and build for the company’s scalable Network Origination Center and Media Operations Center, establishing automated media preparation and delivery workflows, and launching modernized studios and control rooms at NBC’s 30 Rockefeller Plaza headquarters.
He said he considers the industry’s biggest technology challenges to be digital convergence and the changing vendor landscape. The industry’s biggest technology opportunities? Internet Protocol, virtualization and machine learning.
Prior to his most recent role, Jackson gained international broadcast and media expertise working for the BBC, Sony Canada and Sony Electronics in San Jose, Calif.
Asked his best advice for someone looking to succeed in the broadcasting industry he said, “Stay humble, curious and don’t take yourself too seriously.”
A graduate with a degree in physics with electronics from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology in England, he lives in New Jersey with his wife, three children, one cat and two fish.
Senior VP, Chief Information Officer, Fox Television Stations
With more than 20 years of experience in media — and double that tenure in technology overall — Guy Wheaton is responsible for all systems, infrastructure, security and IT governance practices for Fox Television Stations, a group comprised of 28 stations in 17 markets, reaching more than 37% of U.S. TV homes. He’s also a member of the FTS Engineering Steering Committee, working with company leaders on technical and operations practices aimed at efficiency.
He has been in the News Corp. (now 21st Century Fox) family since 1998 after entering the media industry as director of network technology at cable provider MediaOne Group, which is now part of Comcast. While at MediaOne, he learned about designing and running large IP networks for data, voice and video. “I was there for less than two years, but the nature of the work and the people with whom I worked served to cement me in the media industry,” he said.
Before becoming senior vice president and chief information officer for FTS, he was VP of information technology operations, responsible for all planning, deployment and operations for the stations’ computing and network infrastructure. Earlier positions were VP of technology for the News Corp. Global CIO Office, VP of telecommunications for News Corp. Global Sourcing and VP of technology development for News Digital Media.
He sees the industry’s biggest tech challenge now to be one of convergence. “Today, broadcasting is many general-purpose computing platforms that are moving programming as files over an IP network,” Wheaton said. “This requires new skills and new kinds of attentiveness on the part of those who ‘keep it running.’ The most complex and labor-intensive of these is the protection of our broadcast systems from cybersecurity attacks that disrupt our revenue stream and tarnish our reputation.”
The biggest opportunity, he said, comes from the use of digital technologies to continue making new distribution offerings possible. “OTT can create new revenue streams akin to the retransmission relationships we have with [multichannel video programming distributors],” for example. “Mobile streaming watching no matter are. demographic awareness made possible by these distribution models drives the more targeted dynamic ad insertion.”
All of those changes mean the industry’s future technology leaders need to be nimble, he noted when asked what his advice would be for people entering media careers.
“Don’t identify yourself with a technology or process,” he said. “You must constantly question the ‘how’ and ‘why.’ Increasingly, solutions have a short life expectancy. Keep them for as long as they serve the business objectives, be aware of what will make them obsolete and be ready for whatever is coming next.”
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