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Weather Central

Broadcasters and programmers looking to dramatically expand the amount of content they produce for different platforms have faced a major operational stumbling block. Technology advances and limits notwithstanding, to really be successful, companies need to break down many of the silos that have separated their TV, Web and mobile operations.

Over the last year, the Weather Channel has been tackling that issue head-on through a massive project to construct a new Content Creation Center; the center brings together everyone working on content for the company’s TV, VOD, online and mobile efforts into one open area on the first floor of its building outside Atlanta.

Expanding its multiplatform content effort is particularly important for the Weather Channel because it is already a leader in Web and mobile content delivery, says Bob Walker, executive VP of content and networks. Each month, the company already attracts some 60 million unique visitors to its Website and about 32 million mobile users.

“We are unique among media companies because of the massive scale of our online and mobile operations, but before we started building the Content Creation Center, we had people who were focused on creating content for those platforms in opposite ends of the building, with the TV people in the first floor and the online and mobile on the 8th floor,” Walker says.

The effort to consolidate operations and improve communications goes back several years. In 2009, the company laid the foundation for the new initiative by building a video acquisition center to replace its old satellite feed bay, finishing a new assignment desk and consolidating its editing staff into one group, notes Nathan Smith, VP of broadcast operations.

Planning for the Content Creation Center began in November 2010. After the project was funded last February, Smith brought in Chuck Burleson, principal of Sustainable Project Management, who held a series of meetings with staff to determine the needs of each group. That input was used to create the design, and in June the general contractor, Holder Construction, began work.

“The biggest challenge we had was that we kept everything operational while we were actually building in the same area,” Smith says.

The final result, to be completed by the end of this month, is a new open workspace that brings key operations for all platforms together into the first floor of the building. That includes the assignment desk, the Weather Command Center, the video acquisition departments, all the Web and mobile operations, the company’s “expert desk” and graphics production.

Much of the design is focused on improving communication between platforms and the nearly 200 people who use the space in the course of a day. For example, there are monitors throughout the space that detail what is happening at that moment on various Weather Channel platforms. “We wanted to make sure that everyone is looking at everything in terms of cross-platform,” Smith says.

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