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Digital Technology’s Promise Delivered

For years, since the digital revolution hit the television industry, managers, engineers and magazine editors have all been hearing about “the promise of digital,” where stations and facilities could “do more with less.” The folks selling those digital technologies also told us—in no uncertain terms—that “you need to spend money to make money,” or at least “spend money to save money.”

So we all looked for efficiencies. Could the latest digital whiz bang help us to do things faster, better or even allow us to, as the British say, make someone redundant? As time went on, the industry started to see some real benefits: central casting, random access video production, video file transfer, nonlinear editing (especially the laptop variety) and more. But all of those changes won’t compare to what we’ll see in the next few months, because two things will happen that can change your station forever. It may be a 1970’s cliché, but these two things will make your station better than it was before. Better... stronger... faster.

And yes, it will require rebuilding, but it won’t cost six million dollars.

First, forget everything you know about operations and how traffic, automation and digital delivery systems integrate with each other... or don’t... except for what you wish could happen. Think about the affect on your station’s or facility’s operations if these disparate areas were intelligently integrated. Then turn to page 24.

Second, there’s HDV and news. You’ve heard all the hype and I even have a bet with another industry editor who says that stations won’t adopt HDV in newsgathering. Salivating bean-counters think HDV is the cheap way to get into local HD... and it is. But it’s more than that.

We’re currently following a handful of stations that are moving to HDV for ENG for everything except live shots. These are major market stations and each one had a choice to make with HDV and the cost of newsgathering:
- Same staff, more coverage.
- Slightly less staff and slightly more coverage.
- Less staff, the same coverage.

Before you start scratching your head, understand that HDV for ENG cuts the costs of newsgathering by 60% on a per minute basis. For the cost of six ENG crews today, you can have 40 HDV crews, this according to Michael Rosenblum of Rosenblum Associates who invented the video journalists (VJ) concept back in 1988 and is training stations on the technique (FYI: news photogs don’t get fired). Using the same concept, he’s turning around a 60 minute broadcast television reality show in less than one week for The Travel Channel’s 5 Takes Europe which premiered late last month.

But beware the bean-counters... sometimes they’re short sighted. They’ll tell you to do the same amount of coverage and slice your budget. You need to help them to see the long term potential. With 40 HDV news crews, you could demolish the competition with coverage... and see the benefits not in cost savings, but in ad revenue from higher ratings. You’ll probably have enough news to fill that secondary digital news channel you were thinking of multicasting.

Of course this will turn into another news war, just like live shots, helicopters and remotes to far off lands have done in the past. But think of the opportunity that digital technology has given you.

We’ll have a full report on HDV, newsgathering and the bottom line in October.


Michael Silbergleid is the editor and associate publisher of Television Broadcast. He can be reached at