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Graphics Sharing Saves Time, Money

Aug 4, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Several station groups are evaluating and implementing graphics-sharing or centralization projects as they pursue new operating efficiencies.
Hearst-Argyle, Media General, Raycom Media, Liberty Corp. and others are leveraging graphics technology to realize economies of scale across small and large markets.
Hearst-Argyle has begun rolling out a graphics-sharing program at six of its stations. Those broadcasters have the ability to use templates to create lower thirds, textual elements and other graphics and then share them across the group. “Each station creates their own graphics and stores them locally, but they are available to everyone in the company through the WAN connectivity of the group,” Marty Faubell, VP, engineering for the group, said.
He expects the project will be completed in a little more than two years at 24 of the 26 Hearst-Argyle stations that produce news.
The broadcaster uses Pinnacle graphics-generation equipment, which allows producers and reporters to access elements from their own station and to search and retrieve graphics from other stations.
“Our concept isn’t so much on centralization but resource sharing,” Mr. Faubell said. “The group effort allows them to create and share and develop resources that others can use. If we don’t do that, then shame on us. I will be able to create and put more graphics on the air than I could with the existing resources on my stations.”
The shared storage saves time, since artists can grab graphic elements from other stations and focus their efforts on creating specialized graphics for their station, said Andy Wormser, news director for Hearst-Argyle’s NBC station WPTZ-TV in Burlington, Vt., and Plattsburgh, N.Y., which has used the central database for about a year, including most recently for its coverage of a New Hampshire father charged with killing his children on July 4. The graphics WPTZ used were from Hearst-Argyle ABC station WMUR-TV in Manchester, N.H.
Raycom Media instituted the Raycom Design Group at its Tucson, Ariz., CBS affiliate KOLD-TV to create complete graphical packages consisting of opens, bumpers, interstitials and other graphics elements for its 36 stations. The cost of generating a new graphics look for a station can be $50,000 to $150,000, said Dave Folsom, VP, technology, for Raycom Media. Since graphical packages are updated every few years, relying on an in-house creation center instead of outsourcing saves money across the group, he said.
“Our big stations don’t suffer, and our little stations benefit,” he said.
Raycom Media is also evaluating a process with Pinnacle in which the “bagging and tagging” of promotions-daily customization at each station of promotions for syndicated shows-could be automated.
The bag-and-tag process can tie up a crew of two to six people anywhere from eight to 16 hours each day, Mr. Folsom said. The goal would be for one person to spend only a few hours a day on that job, he said.
“This is a fixed-cost business and our cost of doing business is the same in a big market and small market, so to lower our fixed operating costs in smaller markets makes sense,” Mr. Folsom said.
Media General has used a central graphics database for its 26 stations for about four years and may evolve to a shared graphics resource creation center, said Ardell Hill, senior VP of broadcast operations with Media General.
A graphics resource center could allow the group to produce customized, tailored graphics to support all the stations on a regular basis. Mr. Hill estimated that about 20 percent to 30 percent of the graphics are shared through this database. In addition, about 50 percent of all graphics generated are pumped into the system.
Liberty Corp. has created a standardized graphics look that is customized for each of its 15 stations. That is part of the efficiency Liberty hopes to realize with its graphics centralization project, which will be beta-tested at three stations later this year, most likely NBC affiliate WIS-TV in Columbia, S.C., NBC affiliate WSFA-TV in Montgomery, Ala., and ABC affiliate WLOX-TV in Biloxi, Miss., said Guy Hempel, VP of operations for Liberty.
The goal is for all 15 stations to be able to share graphics with each other by the end of next year using Chyron equipment.