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NBC Stations Upgrade Hub for HD Commercials

NBC Universal Local Media Group has upgraded its Burbank hub so it is capable of automatically playing out high-definition commercials and content to eight of NBC’s owned and operated stations.

The automated system, dubbed the Local Media Content Server (LMCS), uses Thomson Grass Valley K2 servers to ingest content in HD and standard-definition and then send it out to eight of the NBC O&Os over a dedicated Internet protocol-based wide area network.

The move to an automated HD spot delivery platform is notable because it illustrates the growing importance of HD advertising for local stations.

“With advertising getting tighter, now is the time for stations to stand out and be the place where viewers want to go for HD content and where advertisers want to put their money because they are going to be more choosy,” said Thomson senior vice president Jeff Rosica, who heads the Thomson Grass Valley division.

Rosica added that the project illustrates how stations can achieve a number of operational efficiencies in the process of upgrading to HD.

“There is still a fair amount of angst about the cost of moving to HD,” he said. “But it is actually easier than they think and there are a number of benefits. Our products offer valuable innovations in infrastructure and work flow. In many cases they can move to HD and improve operating costs.”

By setting up a centralized hub for processing the HD content, “you don’t have to deal with all of the different types of content at each of the stations,” Rosica said. “You have one hub and ingest center that takes in all the content you need and puts it out in a common format.”

Rosica said Grass Valley has had a longstanding business relationship with NBC, which is one of its largest customers, and that the two had been working on the idea for LMCS project for some time. Installing the servers and automated playout system, however, was done quickly over a five- to six-week period prior to the Olympics.

“There was a very tight deadline,” he said. “We were dispatching people all over the country to get it done before the Games.”

NBC operates three hubs: New York; Burbank and Miramar, Calif.; and Florida. Commercials, promos and other content are recorded into the Burbank’s staging server. Using an automated rundown list, they are then sent via FTP to the local stations over NBC’s WAN.

The eight NBC-owned stations currently equipped to use the system are WNBC in New York; WRC, Washington, D.C.; WCAU, Philadelphia; WMAQ, Chicago; KXAS, Fort Worth, Texas; KNBC, Los Angeles; KNSD, San Diego; and KNTV, San Jose, Calif.

Each station is equipped with four new Thomson Grass Valley K2 HD Media servers to support the FTP-style platform, allowing them to download a file whenever needed. Because the files have already been prepared at Burbank, they are ready to air immediately.

The K2 servers are now playing out all of the commercials, promos and billboards for the stations but the system can be expanded to other types of content, including syndicated fare, Rosica said.