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CNBC Gets a Bigger Home

CNBC's Larry Kudlow and Jim Cramer have had the network's new facility all to themselves the past couple of weeks, but the talk-show hosts will have plenty of company on Oct. 13, when the network broadcasts its entire lineup from the 350,000-square-foot facility in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.

The new home is more than nearly double the network's previous site in Fort Lee, N.J. It also adds a third studio, with 7,000-square-foot Studio A serving as The Business Day studio, 4,000-square-foot Studio B handling prime time and weekend programming, and 4,000-square-foot Studio C available for external and town-hall meetings for up to 70 people.

The process that began three years ago has wound down nicely, says CNBC Vice President and Project Manager Steve Fastook, thanks to solid planning, training of employees and integration work by Sony Systems Integration beginning last February.

"We're sleeping at night," he adds, "not running around crazy."

The facility does more than increase the size of the network's operation: It will also increase the speed at which it can operate. Digital workflow based on 19 nonlinear editing systems, explains Vice President of Information Technology Scott Drake, increases the speed with which packages can get on-air. A mix of Grass Valley NewsEdit and Avid nonlinear editing systems will be deployed, with the Avid systems used for longer story packages. Both will tie into a Grass Valley Profile server that will handle storage needs.

Journalists and editors will also be able to access graphics through their desktops. "Editorial people now can interact with those systems where, before, the content creator had to wait and send something by phone or run something over," says Drake. "Plus the video is available simultaneously to multiple users. It's no longer single-threaded media."

Today's broadcast facilities are a deep mix of IT and traditional broadcast engineering. CNBC relies heavily on real-time market data, Drake points out, adding that the deep and competent IT team in place made the transition easier. The role of the network's software on-air applications group was expanded to create a broadcast and convergence team.

"At trade shows, the talk is of the convergence of IT and traditional broadcast, and this facility is the product of that," Fastook observes. "Data is data at CNBC and stored by the IT folks, so, when assets are brought in, they're placed on a short-turnaround system, which allows everyone to work simultaneously. And, as those assets are done with for the day, they're pushed into longer-term storage managed by IT."

Fastook says that master-control operations will still rely on the Grass Valley M2100 production switcher, the same type of switcher used in the original facility. Another holdover will be Sony BVP-900 studio cameras, a 12-bit digital processing camera that has Power HAD 1000 CCDs.

But it will be the nonlinear editing systems that will, in the end, define the new workflow. Fastook says that he hasn't been an editor for years yet still found the systems simple to use.

"I can go pull in a feed into an editing room, edit it, review it and play it back in the control room," he says. "It's amazing how intuitive this stuff has become. I have nothing bad to say about it; it's outstanding."