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Top Engineers' Hope: If We Build It, They Will Come

RELATED:For O&Os, Revamping Newsroom Is Top Story

The top technology and engineering executives at the four Englishlanguage network owned-and-operated TV station groups recently sat down with B&C contributing editor George Winslow to discuss their technology priorities. Here are some of the highlights.

ABC: Engineering for Efficiency

Repurposing content for multiple platforms and finding ways to make their operations more efficient remains top of mind with ABC’s engineers, says Dave Converse, VP of engineering at the ABC Owned Television Stations.

As part of those efforts, ABC has centralized its ingest operations, expanded its file-based workflows and deployed tools to streamline the delivery of video back from the field. Much of the group’s capital budget, however, is devoted to replacing and upgrading existing equipment, Converse says.

“We are really paying attention to the changing, disruptive environment that we are confronted with and trying to be agile enough to respond in a way so that we will be the first ones on the scene to tell the story and serve our constituents,” Converse says.

CBS: Eye on Newsgathering

As part of its focus on news technologies, Jeff Birch, VP of Engineering, CBS Television Stations, says they are examining a number of areas, including tools that allow journalists to be more efficient; new non-linear editing systems; multiplatform delivery technologies; and cellular bonding technologies.

Beyond that, the group is also eyeing technologies for centralizing the ingest of content and solutions that can help them more easily integrate different products together.

Much of their technical focus is on products and services that will have a direct impact on their competitive position and ratings, Birch says. “You can have a neat little device in the back room that does great stuff. But if it is not going to bring a viewer to me, what does it do for me?” he asks. “The goal for technology is really things that will set me apart so the viewers will come.”

Fox: Learning From IT

After centralizing master control operations using an IT infrastructure, setting up a graphics hub and implementing automation production control rooms in recent years, the Fox stations have been focusing on how they can improve those efforts and on bringing in new tools to help the stations be more efficient and improve the quality of their content.

As part of the effort, they have experimented with mobile technologies. “You can outfit an iPad with a Padcaster that lets you attach a lens and a shotgun mic and the journalist is able to shoot, edit and transmit right from the iPad,” says Tim Redmond, VP of engineering and operations for Fox Television Stations.

Redmond adds the group is also exploring technologies to create more unified workflows; systems to streamline user-generated content; and developments that continue to expand the use of IT and IP equipment.

NBC: Smarter Infrastructure

Besides a number of initiatives to improve their newsgathering operations, the NBC stations have focused on deploying better monitoring tools for their infrastructures, reports Jeff Morris, senior VP of operations and technology at the NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations.

“We’ve been investing in some markets quite a bit of resources to create smarter technology infrastructures to help us work smarter,” Morris says. Initially these smarter, more automated monitoring tools are being installed at stations; ultimately, NBCU hopes to expand them to multichannel providers.

In addition, the group has also been examining news archive systems, particularly as they build new facilities in Dallas and L.A. and add better tools for journalists in the field and TV Everywhere solutions.