U.S. broadcasters still have long way to go to complete HD transition

Much work remains to fully convert U.S. TV stations to HDTV technologies, and as they changeover their operations and infrastructure, broadcasters will have an opportunity to improve their overall cost structure, according to a study released days before the 2011 NAB Show by Positive Flux.

The study, “U.S. TV Stations Infrastructure: The HD Transition Has Just Begun,” finds that while many station executives see HDTV conversion as a competitive necessity, they have not recognized the inherent opportunities for process improvement and cost savings the changeover can bring.

The study surveyed senior engineering management at 362 U.S. broadcast stations of all sizes, including station groups, O&Os and independent stations. The results provide a comprehensive, up-to-date view of the state of systems architecture and operational methods employed at network-affiliated stations.

“To make the most of the latest opportunities, engineers and their suppliers first need to fully optimize the fundamentals of station operations. Digital signal paths and true support for HD are necessary platforms,” said Larry Thaler, president of Positive Flux. “Optimized, file-based workflow, cost reduction and new business enablers then emerge as drivers for change.”

The report found that

  • There’s nearly $250 million in untapped annual cost savings to U.S. broadcasters with HD.
  • Stations are only beginning to embrace HD production. Only 38 percent of surveyed stations have made their internal production and master control systems fully HD.
  • While HD control rooms are one of the earliest investments considered by stations, only 45 percent have one or more HD control rooms.
  • While almost 90 percent of stations have adopted nonlinear editing, most have yet to take the next step of developing unified workflow.
  • Although all stations pass their network’s HD feed, many have merely inserted an HD bypass switcher to air network content and still need to upgrade their master control facilities.