Editor's note: The following story is the second of a three-part article on IP newsgathering. The article in its entirety appeared in the November edition of Broadcast Engineering. Part 1 of the story is available online.
New possibilities, priorities
Despite the bit rate challenge, local broadcasters increasingly are embracing IP newsgathering as a supplement to traditional ENG and SNG backhaul for contribution of both live and recorded stories largely because of portability and the speed with which they can be deployed.
The apprehension of the alleged bank-robbing Dougherty gang this summer in southern Colorado is a good example, says Jim Ocon, VP-Technology for the Gray Television broadcast group. The gang — Lee-Grace Dougherty, her brother Ryan Dougherty and her half-brother Dylan Dougherty Stanley — was taken into custody after a 20-mile high-speed car chase.
"Our station in Colorado Springs rolled their satellite truck and couldn't get a signal but had their (IP newsgathering) backpack and used it to scoop the country," Ocon says. "They deploy so much faster than a truck. Once the yellow tape goes up, and people are on the scene, you go with a traditional truck or a land line if you have one (for the Internet connection)."
Gray Television, which serves 30 markets across the country, has outfitted about half of its newsrooms with backpack-based IP newsgathering systems and has plans to equip the rest with the technology. "We are finding that acceptance from stations is really spectacular," he says.
What IP newsgathering offers newsrooms is a new tier of coverage, says Del Parks, VP operations and engineering of the Sinclair Broadcast Group (SBG). "They're the next level down from a live truck," he says. "If it is a scoot and shoot, then you might use one of these backpacks." With stations in 39 markets, SBG is currently finalizing a deal to equip all of its stations that do local news with an IP newsgathering backpack, he says.
From a strategic point of view, IP newsgathering opens up new possibilities for capital expense devoted to field contribution. "Maybe now we don't need five live trucks; maybe we need three," Parks says. "As you introduce technology, you reduce the cost on the big-ticket items and spread it over these lower-cost technologies, and it gives you more capability," he says of IP newsgathering. "At the end of the day, it is about getting more content."
Ocon, however, sees IP newsgathering as a way to break cleanly with the past. "I am not buying any more live trucks," he says. "We'll still have a vehicle to get to the story, but that is different from a masted vehicle that costs $100,000 or more. Those (ENG trucks) are a huge safety risk. They cost a lot in maintenance and gas, and there is an environmental cost as well."
While Ocon says there are no plans to eliminate the station group's ENG fleet, Gray Television won't buy any more. "Gray would much rather invest capital into smaller cameras, iPads, cellular connectivity and mobile editing platforms," he says.