Hearst TV Preps for Live Local Cut-ins, Packages From Winter Olympics

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA—Hearst Television crews are in place in South Korea to provide its NBCU local affiliates with live cut-ins and recorded segments during their morning newscasts. In all, the station group has sent nine people to South Korea, including three two-person field crews made up of a photographer and reporter, two producers and an engineer/IT specialist.

Hearst TV tests of TVU One from South Korea.

While NBCU retains all rights to distribute Winter Olympics Games and ceremonies in the United States, the Hearst TV crews will focus mainly on the U.S. athletes who live in or near markets where the station group owns NBC affiliates, said Larry Vancini, manager of broadcast IT for the group. “We’re doing a few for WPTZ-TV, our NBC affiliate in Plattsburgh, N.Y., for example,” he said. There are several Winter Olympics connections for WPTZ. In December 2017, U.S. biathlete Leif Nordgren married WPTZ meteorologist Caitlin Napoleoni. Other U.S. Olympic athletes from the area include skeleton racer John Daly and cross-country skier Ida Sargent.

The crews also may cover stories about South Korea, such as the nation’s new bullet train connecting Seoul to the PyeongChang mountain Winter Olympics venue, he said during a telephone interview from Seoul.

Hearst TV is splitting its resources between the coastal city of Gangneung where events like hockey, speed skating and curling will take place and PyeongChang, which will be the site of various skiing and snowboarding events, he said.

“Right now the workspace is set up in the coastal cluster where our live position is,” said Vancini. There the station group will use a TVU Networks Transceiver to share live and recorded content with its 11 NBC affiliates via the TVU Grid. The crews will also provide content to its NBC affiliates for their local Ozone shows, which combine content from the Hearst TV crews with that of the network, he said. 

At the PyeongChang venue and elsewhere around the peninsula, the Hearst TV crews will rely on a TVU One portable streaming solution for contribution. Hearst TV is renting the unit rather than taking its own TVUPacks to South Korea, he added. “The TVU One is so much smaller and lighter [than the first generation TVUPack],” said Vancini. “That’s important to our crews that have to carry a camera, batteries and other equipment.” (The TVU One weighs 2.2 pounds and measures about 7.5 inches high by 4.75 inches wide by 2.75 inches deep.)

“TVU paired the TVU One with four wireless modems from South Korea’s wireless carriers,” he said. Despite South Korea’s mountainous terrain, the unit has provide a robust connection and performed well during testing. “I fired it up and did some testing yesterday (Feb. 2 in South Korea), and all of the air cards had great signal,” he said.

South Korea’s wireless infrastructure has been a pleasant surprise, said Vancini. “There’s not been a single place I’ve been where I haven’t been able to connect with my phone and get good throughput,” he said.

Hearst TV will rely on a combination of Wi-Fi, wired Ethernet and wireless cell service and temporary TVU hotspots if needed to contribute live and edited stories to group stations from South Korea, he added.

The setup will allow the crews to deliver live shots to its stations with only about one second of latency. IFB will be handled through the group’s news bureau in Washington, D.C., in combination with the mobile phones of the field crews. IFB latency is about 1/10 of a second, Vancini added.

“These backpacks make it so much easier for a crew to go out and cover something without having a big live truck or satellite truck,” he said. “I call it the right tool for the right job.”

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.