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Rainbow Upgrades with $30M Digital Center

The new $30-million Rainbow Network Communications Technology Center in Bethpage, N.Y., will be the command post for the various cable networks owned by Cablevision Systems Corp.'s Rainbow Media Holdings Inc. — and should generate revenue by servicing outside customers.

Those prospective third-party clients will include producers of cable and broadcast-TV programs and commercials, RNC senior vice president and general manager Steve Pontillo said last week before the facility's opening.

The facility — which took two years to build and replaces a smaller operation in Floral Park, N.Y. — will employ 180 full-time staffers on the grounds of what was once the Grumman Corp.

Space also has been allocated for a pair of 60-foot by 40-foot editing studios that will also be promoted to third-party prospects, Pontillo said. Rainbow is working on the business plan, and client pitches should begin in about eight months, he said.

As Rainbow's command center, RNC will provide daily origination, transmission and satellite uplinking for promotion spots, on-air graphics and programming for Rainbow networks. The gear accounts for about $22 million of the overall cost.

The facility will be used to transfer motion pictures from film to tape for such Rainbow services as American Movie Classics. It will also originate high-definition programming for Cablevision's New York-area local sports channels, Fox Sports New York and Madison Square Garden Network, Pontillo said.

RNC also works with Rainbow Advertising Sales Corp., but only to transfer its advertisers' commercials from tape to digital and to distribute the spots to such networks as Bravo and AMC.

The center does not get involved with commercials for the Cablevision-owned New York Interconnect, which handles its own distribution.

The new production site also will offer screening rooms in which clients may view commercials, programs and movies.

On the programming side, RNC's post-production operation will edit movies for obscenity and nudity for its various cable networks, among other tasks. The technical operations staff will also coordinate 24-hour affiliate engineering support.

The RNC complex encompasses a master control room, with 250 color monitors and an 11-foot-high monitoring wall, plus 26 rack bays, Web hosting facilities and a library system that can store upward of 100,000 videotapes.

TV monitors and digital tape machines bear the Sony Corp. brand. Other vendors include Harris Automation, for Global Media Transfer software; Grass Valley Group, for XP video servers; and Motorola, for its digital satellite-transmission system.

RNC also announced an alliance with Power to Learn, Cablevision's educational initiative and Long Island-area high schools. RNC will host a "Technology Day" program, to give students a close-up look at a state-of-the-art cable origination and transmission center. The first school set to participate is the Bethpage High School Technology Academy.