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CNBC Extends Its Reach With Cameras Everywhere

Investment bank CEO Craig Kaufman loves seeing Kaufman Bros.’ analysts on CNBC. He just doesn’t want them wasting the time traveling to CNBC’s offices in New Jersey  to do it.

“It would take them four hours to go on TV for two seconds, so it kills the whole half a day for an analyst,” Kaufman said. “So if they can pop into a conference room here to do it live from here, that saves four hours.”

That’s where the firm’s Telenetix high-definition videoconferencing system comes in, the one Kaufman originally installed to promote long-distance collaboration between employees in his New York and San Francisco offices. CNBC actually volunteered to send its own “cheapo cameras” to be used for remote interviews, Kaufman said, but he figured his own equipment was better, and his tech people were able to figure out how to turn it into a CNBC video feed in short order. So now initiating a video call with the financial news network is as easy as walking into the conference room and pushing a button labeled “CNBC” on the touch screen control panel.

“They want to have cameras everywhere, and this is a lot cheaper for them than sending cameramen out,” Kaufman said.

It’s a strategy that more news operations may want to consider “if you’re looking for content, want to get more content, get more depth,” and do it at a reasonable cost, said Steve Fastook, vice president of operations and engineering for CNBC.

“It makes a big difference because our credibility comes from experts,” Fastook said. “There’s such a diverse opinion about what we cover, business, so we try to get as much opinion and insight as we can on everything we talk about.”

Although many news programs include remote interviews via satellite with interviewees at a sister station TV location, CNBC is making new connections over the Internet, tapping into the increasingly high quality and ease of use of corporate videoconferencing equipment ranging from high-definition setups to simple Webcams. Although some large financial institutions have their own TV studios specifically for this purpose, conference room and desktop video equipment is far more pervasive, Fastook said.

CNBC gladly pays for “first rate, top of the line” fiber optic network connections to key locations such as the floor of the New York Stock Exchange for the NASDAQ, he said, but if it had to stick to that standard for every contributor it connects with remotely, the network would be “financially limited” in how many contributors it could afford to have.

Broader geographical coverage with remote cameras – whether provided by CNBC or by the contributors themselves – has become particularly important to CNBC over the last two to three years, Fastook said, “because trades are not just happening on Wall Street anymore, they’re happening all over the country.”

Provided that the organization on the other end of the Internet connection has adequate bandwidth reserved for video, the image quality from videoconferencing equipment is usually good, Fastook said, and lower resolution webcam feeds can be resized into a smaller box on the screen to make them look better, Fastook said. There is a slight transmission delay, which varies according to the Internet connection, but there are control room tricks for compensating for that, he said. “You do have to temper your expectations on quality, and expect a slight delay,” he said.

Some of the latest corporate HD videoconferencing systems, sometimes referred to as “telepresence” systems, now also pay more attention to high quality lighting and the aesthetic design of the conference room in which they are placed to produce a “just like being there” effect for remote meetings. Bad lighting still comes up as an issue with some financial analyst partners, but it’s easily remedied by providing some lights or an anti-glare coating for windows, Fastook said.