Centralcasting evolution

Streamlining television master control operations is nothing new. It started with the audio-follow-video master control switcher that eliminated the need for a second master control operator. Remote control panels, automated switchers and videotape cart machines promised additional savings, but in most instances those advancements actually required engineers to do more.

In the 1980s, engineers began integrating computers in master control rooms to trigger VTR and film chain remote controls. As the trend continued, custom computer programs were written to be loaded with station program logs. Some also generated as-run lists that allowed somewhat automatic client billing. Just as most technical operations systems were unique to each local TV station, nearly every station assembled its own “automation” system, often using custom TTL controls, contact closures and interfaces designed and built by local station engineers.

As broadcast groups grew and WANs and the Internet became more mainstream, some forward-thinking managers began to visualize the potential for groupwide economies of scale. By the late 1990s, the now-defunct New York Times television group had begun experimenting with a new concept called centralcasting. The idea was to remotely control local equipment at group stations from a central location. The word and idea spread quickly through the industry, and many groups began investigating the pros, cons, costs and benefits of centralcasting.

How did they make it work?

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