Your priority project can change faster than you think. Our business is big business, and often we're not the folks driving. You could wake up tomorrow morning to find a major project in your lap—that could be completely unexpected and outside of the normal day-to-day activities. Trust me, it's happened to me at least six times in the past 10 years.
IT MAKES AN IMPACT
The business of acquiring or divesting a broadcast television station impacts everyone. Regardless of which direction that property is headed—inbound or outbound—one of the key issues you have to expect to deal with revolves around the people. The impact of changing management and ownership affects people in many different ways. Uncertainty can hang in the air, and you may not have the ability—or the approval—to clarify things. Dynamics change. Nerves become frayed. And they'll all be looking to you for solutions.
During the entire project, it's critically important to keep primary focus on the people that will be impacted and ensure they are receiving factual communication to help them through the change.
Balanced with this, it's important to clearly understand your role and the legal requirements you may have to work within. There may be specific requirements, terms and conditions of the transaction that require strict attention. Knowing about any agreements for extension of services is also important.
So, you now have the balance of the people… along with understanding of the legal requirements… and a monumental project ahead of you.
We have always made efforts wherever we can to ensure uniformity among the stations within our group. Similar setups and configurations make installation, training and support of any endeavor much easier. If we're buying a station, we'll use the transition period to bring them into our standards where possible. If we're selling, our baseline is already familiar to all of the team members involved.
WHAT TO CONSIDER
Many things must be considered during initial planning phases. Of primary importance are traffic and master control operations. Understanding the conversion process and being able to provide a seamless cutover is required. This is, after all, the cash register of any station. Your goal is to keep it functioning continuously throughout the process. You'll likely be involved with multiple vendors and management from both sides, so a solid understanding of timelines and processes is required. You may also be involved in acquiring hardware and developing processes to stage the station in preparation for conversion.
In addition, you'll need to take into consideration any special configurations you may have in place. For example, if master control is centralized, as it is in our case, what changes need to be made to effectively make the station a standalone operation? What resources and staffing will be required? What steps can be taken in advance to reduce the tasks required on C-Day (cutover day)?
Are production capabilities completely localized, or do you have pieces that need to be modified to stand on their own? Be sure not to overlook Web applications such as discrepancy reporting that may break during transition if the solution isn't localized.
On the business side of the house, you'll need to review your network infrastructure, domains, trusts, communications (e-mail and telephones), data circuits, etc. A solid migration plan for all servers, workstations, users, security objects and mailboxes will need to be developed in coordination with the buyer or seller. This is a time-consuming process but will save many headaches during the actual migration phase.
SECURITY IS CRUCIAL
It's also important to consider who will be responsible for specific steps, keeping in mind that the security of your network is crucial. If a new standalone domain is created as the future home of these objects, it's likely a trust will be I n place. Mismanaging this could result in the buyer or seller having full administrative rights to your entire network. Access must be tightly controlled.
In our environments, we install temporary firewalls and restrict access using detailed Access Control Lists from the time of close until the full migration is complete. As services end or start, we can quickly modify these lists and maintain full control of our environment.
Once you have fully migrated the property, confirmation that all voice and data circuits have been properly handled is necessary. Do they get cancelled or transferred? Who has control of the access?
Don't forget vendor-provided equipment! If your vendors require specific firewall ports for communication, it's also likely they're expecting that communication to originate from a specific IP address. With a cutover to new services, that origination address is going to change, and vendors sometimes require advance notice to implement these requests.
COMMUNICATION IS KEY
Stations continually evolve and change. Systems become integrated, installations become more complex and it's likely there are more than a few wires you just can't quite identify. That scenario is familiar to us all—and you have to depend on detailed documentation to resolve any discrepancies. In the situation of a sale, you may have to successfully undo years of growth and change in a matter of weeks.
Technological challenges during a sale are big hurdles. But, that's only part of it. The success of the technological challenges is highly dependent on your communication with the personnel involved. If they perceive you as a strong resource and a solution provider, you've won a major battle! Count on IT!
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