WideOrbit's Wider Reach

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One example of how vendors are looking to revamp the whole notion of master control and automation solutions can be found at Wide- Orbit, which launched its WO Master Control system last month.

WideOrbit already has widely deployed its traffic and billing systems in TV stations, and clients have long asked the software vendor to build a master control and automation system. But the company wanted to wait until after the digital transition, explains Steve Smith, director of TV automation. That way, WideOrbit could take a fresh look at the problem, and it does not get bogged down with an automation product that would have to deal with legacy analog systems that were on their way out, Smith notes.

Smith, who wrote his master’s thesis in 1971 on broadcast automation and worked on the installation of the first automation system at a TV station in 1986, believes the new product, which took about 30 months to develop, offers a lowcost solution that breaks new technical ground.

For starters, it uses off-the shelf IT technology to cut capital and operating costs while offering a number of advanced features. “It is the industry’s first fully integrated IT and DTV hardware and software solution in a single IT server,” Smith says.

Pricing for the WideOrbit server, which is capable of handling up to four channels of SD or HD feeds with built in-master control switching, graphics, automation and content storage, will vary with the customer’s needs, Smith says.

In any configuration, however, “it is very scalable and much less expensive than traditional solutions,” Smith explains. “We are already installing it in two stations [with deployment by July 1], and it’s been extremely well-received.”