Cobalt’s SpotCheck Helps Nexstar Stay CALM

Cobalt Digital’s SpotCheck

LITTLE ROCK, ARK.—Nexstar Broadcasting Group is one of the nation’s top 20 station groups and owns or provides services to 72 TV stations nationwide. We reach approximately 13.8 million television households with ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, CW and My Network programming.

After the CALM Act was passed, we began shopping for loudness monitoring methodology that would help us comply. We evaluated several systems at the 2012 NAB Show and that’s where Cobalt Digital’s SpotCheck first got our attention.

During our evaluation we learned that SpotCheck monitors every programming segment sent as an ASI stream from a broadcast facility and provides proof and a record of loudness compliance 24/7. We were immediately struck by how advanced the system was compared to some others we looked at, and also how operator- friendly it was. SpotCheck became our loudness monitoring solution for all Nexstar call letter stations.

I was directly involved in rolling out 10 of the units purchased, and also provided support for the installation of several other SpotCheck systems.

The initial installation and server configuration went extremely well, with only a few issues surfacing, mostly with integration with our automation system. Cobalt addressed these configuration issues very quickly—most of them within the same day. However, this came as no surprise to us, as we’ve worked with Cobalt in the past and quickly learned that one of their strengths is superb service. How a company handles their service speaks volumes and can influence future purchases.

The SpotCheck unit is very intuitive and requires little or no training to operate. With almost no instruction—other than speaking with a Cobalt engineer on the phone for more in-depth analysis, I was immediately able to go in and determine where our audio levels actually were. Clicking on the Web GUI tabs gave me access to numerous screens of useful information, including graphs and logs of audio levels.

As soon as SpotCheck went live, we started tracking our loudness processing and were able to modify and adjust our system to ensure that we were in full CALM compliance. Cobalt’s graphics-based SpotCheck features user-friendly icons to identify program segments, and an audio graph to indicate overall segment loudness. It sends out an alert if commercials or programs are out of audio tolerance.

And the really nice thing is that you don’t need an engineering degree to operate the system or to analyze the audio information that it provides, which allows our nontechnical staff to make refinements to the signals being transmitted.

Without SpotCheck we wouldn’t know whether our facilities were CALM compliant. It’s very nice to know that we are. SpotCheck is an invaluable tool.

Dan Stalnaker joined Nexstar in 2006 as chief engineer of Little Rock’s KARK-TV and was promoted to his current position in 2008. He may be contacted

For additional information, contact Cobalt Digital at 800-669-1691 or