By the Numbers

This month we begin a six-part series on the technology plans for broadcasters, cable systems/networks and production facilities. This state-of-the-industry series is based on the latest survey information from the Intertec Research department. The data presented here launches a year-long, six-part examination of how the broadcast and production industries are proceeding along the digital path. We'll look at spending plans, budgets and the equipment needed by these facilities. Additional surveys will be conducted throughout the year, so many of you will have the opportunity to participate in the project.

The goal is to help you better understand how industry dynamics may be playing out. This series of articles will help you develop an unbiased, authoritative position on some key issues for our industry. And as an aside, it might also help you know what your competition's planning. So, here we go… by the numbers.

The race to digital.

Not surprisingly, post facilities lead the pack in already having digital facilities. Fully 90 percent report having at least some or all of their facilities already converted to “digital.” Unfortunately, TV stations are bringing up the rear. About two-thirds reported having already converted at least some of their production areas to digital.

Do you plan to upgrade or replace production areas this year?

Post production readers also lead when it comes to upgrading their facilities. Almost three-quarters of these readers and almost as many of the cable readers said they planned to upgrade their facilities in 2001. That's almost 15 percent higher than TV stations' plans. Even so, close to two-thirds of TV respondents said they planned on upgrading their production rooms to digital this year.

Budgets and big spenders.

While TV stations may be slower adopters, they are definitely the big spenders. The average TV station's budget for production room upgrades is $373,110. Production facilities and the cable sites will spend a little less, averaging just over a quarter million per facility. Measured overall, the production equipment market looks good with an average budget per facility of almost $300,000.

Top equipment picks.

This chart details the type of equipment that facilities plan to buy. It's clear that NLE has matured, as almost one-half of all facilities plan to buy new digital NLE systems this year. It's also safe to say that “Tape is not dead,” as more than one-third of the facilities plan to buy VTRs.

An HD implementation schedule.

Putting your money where you mouth is applies especially to expensive HD equipment. Respondents were asked when they expected to add HD capability. Measured over all responses by facility category, TV stations don't see adding HD production capability until 2005. Cable and production facilities are a year earlier, 2004.

The state of HD.

High definition technology usage isn't large yet. One-fifth of the production/post facilities have HD capability and only 12 percent of the TV stations do. Given that we're approaching the 200 DTV station point, this isn't really bad and expect this number to climb. Cable couldn't care less about HD, with only 5 percent reporting any HD capability. Keep in mind this number includes major cable networks and program suppliers. No support for HD there.

When will you add HD production equipment?

This chart provides an interesting summary of important data. First, it combines the data from above showing the number of facilities that already have HD capability in yellow. Then, red columns are added showing predicted HD spending plans, by facility type, for 2001. Note the close correlation between those that already have HD capability with those that plan to buy more HD gear this year. This suggests growth, albeit slower than some would like, for HD technology.

For those buying HD equipment, what's hot?

In a word—tape. The workhorse VTR is at the top of the list of desired purchases for HD production applications. Next in line is cameras/lenses followed by digital nonlinear editing systems.

The next update on By the Numbers will be in April. We'll review facility plans for nonlinear editing technology.