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Tapeless at Twenty

NBC News Channel turns 20 on Jan. 1, with plans to give its Charlotte, N.C., newsroom a major facelift. Over the next year, the division will be moving to a tapeless workfl ow and preparing to deploy new file servers as part of a push to strengthen its operations in the run-up to 2012, which is shaping up to be one of the busiest, most challenging news cycles in years.

“We start 2012 with the Super Bowl on NBC and then we have the Summer Olympics on NBC,” notes Bob Horner, president of NBC News Channel, which feeds affiliates, international clients and NBC’s various broadcast and cable operations news stories and footage from its 10,000 sq. ft. facility in Charlotte. “And while all of that is going on, we obviously have the political races and the presidential campaign; 2008 was a tough year, but I think 2012 will be even more intense.”

Next year’s first major upgrade will be the installation of an Avid system that will shift the NBC News Channel newsroom from a tape-based workflow to a completely non-linear, tapeless operation. “Our technical engineers and IT teams are deep into the project planning, and we anticipate we’ll go live with that system on a regular basis around July 1,” says Horner.

The new system will improve the quality of the news feeds NBC delivers because they won’t have to dump video from tapes into servers. It will also speed up the newsroom’s ability to deliver more content to more platforms. Each day the operation—which serves around 200 NBC affiliates, 15 key international clients and NBC’s national broadcast and cable news operation— delivers about 250 video stories, sends out live coverage of approximately 25 events, codes about 20 stories for NBC affiliate Websites and responds to requests for archival footage. Overall, Horner estimates NBC News Channel pumps out more than 1,000 items per day with a staff of about 100—80 of them full-timers.

NBC News Channel is also in the early stages of acquiring a new set of proprietary servers that are expected to be deployed in late 2011 or early 2012 at NBC affiliates and other clients that receive its content. “In the first quarter, we’ll be having serious internal discussions about what we need in our next server package,” Horner says. “Then sometime in the spring, we will start talking to vendors about who might be the best one to work for us on the next round” of server deployments.

That will certainly be to NBC’s advantage, given the big year down the road. “By making these two big technological upgrades in 2011, we will be able to devote all our staff’s time to our coverage and our client services in 2012,” Horner says.

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