| In early 2001, Media General Broadcast Group began to merge the operations of their 26 broadcast TV stations. By combining these operations, the network could minimize capital investment costs and reduce overall operational expenses. |
The plan was to first standardize and centralize traffic operations, then centralize master control duties and distribute the operations workload among the stations. The results would be substantial improvements in operational efficiency with no loss in reliability, minimal capital outlay and low interconnection costs. The team selected Florical Systems’ automation as the means to achieve these goals.
When the company centralized traffic operations in 2001, they improved efficiencies with standardized reporting, quicker access to avails information for sales, and better customer service. The next step involved centralization of master control for 12 stations at a hub in Spartanburg, SC.
The hub monitors and controls the automation systems located at each of the 11 spoke stations. The hub can modify the schedule for any channel right up to the next event to air. Each automation system controls video servers, switchers and logo inserters at the local station. The WAN in Spartanburg performs most system control functions. The network features three separate backup circuits. However, in the unlikely event of a WAN failure, the local stations can quickly switch to local mode and maintain automated operations until the WAN connection is restored.
Program acquisition is streamlined with a central ShowTimer system that prepares both the master and the stations’ daily recording schedules. This system sends commands over the WAN to each station’s device server to control the local equipment to position dishes, tune receivers and record satellite feeds used by the station. Each station maintains a copy of the daily recording schedule for use by a local backup controller in the event of loss of connectivity to the hub. The local controller also allows the remote station to add recordings to the master record schedule in Spartanburg.
The local view of the master record schedule enables operators to ensure that all recordings for a program start at exactly the same time. Each station is assigned programs to segment and time. Timing data is stored in a central media database available to all stations. Because all recordings of a program start at the same universal coordinated time, there is no need for adjustments to reconcile different start times. The result is that the labor to time program segments is not only distributed across all stations, but also significantly reduced.