If you were missing your news director and/or chief engineer in mid-October, they were probably at the Broadcast Engineering and Broadcasting and Cable News Technology Summit in Atlanta. The summit focused on helping attendees and their stations better understand and apply news technology. Corporate sponsors included Avid, CNN Newsource, Leitch, Pathfire, Pinnacle Systems, SGI, Sony, Thomson Grass Valley, Chyron, ParkerVision, Quantel and vizrt.
There is no ROI on news
Perhaps the liveliest session focused on the issue of justifying new technology and equipment for the newsroom.
The audience quickly got into this session. Many questions centered on how to measure the return on the investment in a technology. How, for example, could a chief engineer and news director convince the station's financial managers that a networked newsroom would actually save money? Obviously, the audience had been faced with such questions.
The consensus from the experts on the panel may have disappointed some in the audience: There is no ROI on news technology. The experts told the audience not to expect traceable financial results when adding new technology to a news operation. Purchase new technology because it keeps you competitive, the panel said.
Transitioning the news operation
Attendees were also jarred a bit at the thought of intermixing current 4:3 images with widescreen 16:9 images from the network. Few news directors had given serious consideration to how a station's new set might look when it follows a 16:9 newscast from the network. Also, how will stations combine 4:3 images from their own crews with a possible 16:9 network feed? Consider how to handle bumpers between network and local shows. The network feed is 16:9 and your promos are 4:3. Anyone see a problem building there?
Chief engineers were concerned about the life of their new cameras. They wondered if there is a disadvantage in buying new cameras today if they cannot be upgraded to 16:9 imagers. Or would it actually be better to buy now without an upgrade path because new cameras may later drop in price.
One area attendees and panelists found little common ground on was digital asset management. Audience questions showed that most stations “manage assets” with a labeled cassette. If you can't find the cassette, or if it wasn't properly labeled in the first place, you don't have an asset.
The large organizations represented on the panel, CNN and CBS, already have DAM systems in place. A check showed that no one in the audience did. The disconnect between the large networks and typical stations may be based on the cost of the technology. As prices come down, expect wider use of DAM technology.
Other session topics included centralized graphics storage, centralcast news issues, migration to a digital newsroom, newsroom workflow and the future of television news. Keynote speakers included Walter Isaacson, chairman and CEO of The CNN News Group, and Thomas Wolzien of Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.
Broadcast Engineering and Broadcasting and Cable's next technology summit is scheduled for February. Stay tuned for more information.