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Shared broadcast operations centers may hold key to local HD future in small markets

In a move aimed at reducing the price of the buy-in to do local origination of news and program preparation in HD, Raycom Media has begun exploring the concept of rolling out broadcast operations centers jointly funded together with competitors in certain local markets.

Speaking this week with “News Technology Update” after a keynote speech at the Competitive Television Summit in Orlando, FL, Raycom Media CEO and President Paul McTear said the economic climate, particularly in smaller TV markets, is demanding a shift in thought of how HD gets done on a local level.

Raycom Media, one of the nation’s largest station groups with 44 TV stations, launched HD local news in about a dozen markets last year. Going it alone in midsized and smaller markets to launch and sustain HD news and operations may be too much, however.

Currently, broadcasters regularly share transmission towers and transmitter facilities, McTear said. Why not distribute the cost of building and operating HD broadcast operating centers in a similar way, he asked. “That may help to keep us all from spending hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars in each and every television station,” McTear said.

According to McTear, this concept has moved beyond the idea phase. Raycom Media has begun talks with other broadcasters in some markets about moving forward. While he did not disclose which markets were in play or individual stations, Raycom is discussing the proposal with other broadcast groups, he said.

“When you look at the small markets, these stations are under increasing stress with the economy,” McTear said. A shared local HD broadcast operations center may be the solution they need to serve their local audiences with HD while minimizing capital outlay and holding operating expenses in check.