LITTLE ROCK, ARK.
No one else originates as much content for as many stations from one location as we do here at Equity Broadcasting. From our central automated satellite hub (CASH) just outside the city limits here, we are feeding programming from Univision, Telefutura, LAT TV, MyNetwork TV, ABC, Fox and our own Retro Television Network to almost 70 O&O and client stations nationwide. The system effectively replaces local station master control and manages accounting, spot inventory, promotion and production functions. It sends out complete streams that can be fed directly to a transmitter. We anticipate growing to more than 100 stations by the end of 2008.
NEW NETWORK TAKES OFF
In 2005, under the direction of Neal Ardman and Larry Morton, Equity created the Retro Television Network (RTN). Right now it’s carried on our own stations and others. RTN is a 24/7 network offering ratings-proven classic shows such as “I Love Lucy.” RTN has begun partnering with local stations nationwide, and since then the growth has been phenomenal.
RTN was designed to air on a local broadcaster’s digital subchannel, enabling easy expansion of programming options. It provides each affiliate with a customized feed that includes not only the classic hit shows, but also local programming such as news, weather, and sports—in essence a turnkey station.
To accommodate RTN’s growth, we renovated our facility and completely restructuring our workflow to enable ingest of content to a common server, then quality control on nearline, and distribution to playout servers as needed. We selected Omneon server equipment as the core of this application. It’s been the flexibility of Omneon equipment that made the restructuring of our workflow possible. That flexibility will also enable our system to expand without significant disruption.
We use Omneon Spectrum media servers for ingest and for playout, and the Omneon MediaGrid active storage system for nearline storage and an online archive, with workflow under the direction of Crispin Automation. The system is scalable and optimizes efficiency by enabling a single copy of content to run on multiple stations.
MEDIAGRID VERY VERSATILE
The capabilities of MediaGrid are particularly valuable to us. As the name says, its architecture is grid-based, and the design provides processing power for applications such as transcoding, audio/video processing and level checking, in addition to quality checking content before it’s played to air. For us, the speed of MediaGrid is a huge advantage. When we have to get something on the air, we don’t have time to wait while the show transfers from one machine to the next.
RTN is obviously a library-based network. When we reach the end of a series, we start again at the first episode and we don’t want to have to send someone to the vault to pull out the copy and re-ingest it. This risks damage to our vault copy and wastes time. The system allows us to keep a digitized copy of all episodes at the ready.
RTN is so popular as it’s a win-win situation—the ultimate way to monetize the digital spectrum. Viewers like to watch entertaining shows on television, not niche programming, and when people sit down and look at our schedule, they inevitably find favorites. In the end, it’s the popularity of the programming that’s driving our growth.
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