Execs Mull NAB Show 'Wish List'
—While the economy continues to right itself, broadcast executives and the other usual suspects soon head for the NAB Show in Las Vegas with a healthy 'wish list' of interests—notably file-based transfer options, archiving solutions, Mobile DTV, loudness controls, and various HD upgrading.
COX MEDIA GROUP
Dave Siegler, Cox Media Group's new vice president for technical operations, said file-based transfer of commercials and programming top his list. "We're also working toward solutions for audio loudness control and compliance with the CALM [commercial advertising loudness mitigation] Act," he said. Richmond, Va.-based CMG currently has 15 TV stations, among other properties.
"The most exciting issue is Mobile DTV and its impending deployment to the consumer," Siegler said. "Mobile will be a game-changer that we'll continue rolling out to more of our markets." As a founding member of the Mobile Content Venture consortium, CMG is part of an industry-wide effort to launch Mobile DTV as soon as possible in at least 20 of the largest DMAs.
We're also are watching the evolving developments regarding spectrum—with expected updates coming at NAB," Siegler said. (The Mobile TV Pavilion will be located in the LVCC North Hall.)
Providence, R.I.-based LIN Media owns or operates 32 TV stations. John Viall, vice president for engineering and operations, said "we're focused on new technologies that will enhance our stations' news, [online] and mobile workflows." LIN can now ingest, store and route video, online and mobile content via its Centralcast Broadcast Technology Centers, as well as via a FTP distribution system.
Viall said another LIN priority is newsgathering hardware/software. "Over the past several years, we've aggressively added newsgathering equipment utilizing field-editing and IP delivery devices incorporating 3G and 4G transport systems serving our multimedia platforms. Several companies will be exhibiting advanced technology products in this area and we look forward to speaking with them."
LIN Media is a member of the Open Mobile Video Coalition and holds its top leadership post. "We're committed to the development of mobile video TV and the technologies that permit its advancement," Viall said. "As for 3D, it's my belief that it will gain popularity—at least once manufacturers provide glasses-free receivers." (By early March, NAB had said its 3D Pavilion space was already sold out.)
Dave Glenn, president of engineering at ION Media, is not so sure 3D "is going to catch as much wind as [manufacturers] might be anticipating." His HD/SD cable channels airs on most major cable systems and it recently obtained its 60th TV station. ION has four regional offices with technical operations based in Clearwater, Fla.
Left to right: Dave Siegler, John Viall, Dave Glenn, Andy Whiteside
Like CMG's Siegler, Glenn believes a major issue coming up for broadcasters is the loudness-control CALM Act. "I'd love to see manufacturers showing something that would properly adjust levels to the recommendations that are about to become law. I'd like to see some tutorials and demonstrations on this."
Glenn also will be on the lookout at NAB for any signs of smart-antenna development. "You can't change physics. It is what it is," he said. "But ideally at a minimum, if there can be a consumer product that allows consumers—not to decode—but tell them what they need to do locate signals [via various tower sites], that would be a big help. I think with today's economy, a lot of people would use smart antennas and give up that [costly] cable bill every month."
At PBS, Chief Technology Officer John McCoskey said the Arlington, Va.-based network is planning an upgrade of its linear satellite distribution feeds, so PTV execs will be looking at advanced encoders for PBS's network operations center and satellite receivers for PBS's 360 local outlets. "Workflow, metadata, and media management tools are all high on this year's list," McCoskey said. "Anything that offers us automation and accelerates transmedia content preparation, along with quality control and manipulation, is important—as we take on more distribution outlets but contain operating costs."
McCoskey said with the network's technology conference, "PBS TechCon," (April 6-8 at the MGM Grand) typically preceding the NAB Show, "many of us are in Las Vegas for 10 days or more. Although it's exhausting, the back-to-back conferences offer efficiencies in both time and travel expenses that are hard to beat."
Mark Siegel, president of DTV designer/integrator Advanced Broadcast Solutions of SeaTac, Wash., said NAB will mark his 38th consecutive spring show. "We're always looking for cost-effective ways to achieve better connectivity over IT," he said. "We'll be checking out any new equipment that enables distribution over multiple platforms such as terrestrial [and] Mobile DTV."
Siegel sends his entire staff to NAB to keep them abreast of what's happening in related industries. "I think 90 percent of those who come to NAB are just there to see the exhibits," he said. "They don't see the value in educating their employees through the many sessions and other education. But it's an investment you have to make for your employees. We have to continually keep on top of all this."
Dave Van Hoy, president of Advanced Systems Group, LLC, said his clients suffer from a dilemma known as "data life cycle." Consequently, staffers from the Emeryville, Calif. firm plan to spend part of their NAB sojourn looking closely at better storage, asset management, and archival options. "As the shift to all-digital work flows has moved forward, this is the problem that doesn't go away." Van Hoy also thinks 3D "will only exacerbate digital workflow issues that really need to be solved. This year's Digital Cinema Summit looks excellent."
Andy Whiteside, general manager of Acrodyne Services, LLC (which assumed some assets of the former Acrodyne Industries in 2009) said one priority at NAB will be scrutinizing test and monitoring solutions to complement the fledgling firm's Mobile DTV upgrade work.
"The boom in Mobile DTV offerings from a greater variety of suppliers has been very encouraging, but its slow roll-out by stations has been discouraging, yet understandable," Whiteside said. "But I think we may have reached a tipping point as stations start to realize the potential of offering services on many new types of devices."