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High-Tech Home in Works for WCPO

Nov 3, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Scripps-owned ABC affiliate WCPO-TV in Cincinnati plans to move into a new 60,000-square-foot digital facility in June. It’s the fourth new facility that Scripps has built in the last decade for the 10-station group, and WCPO will be on the cutting edge of new broadcast technology.
The project provides a real-world example of the choices TV stations make as they build a digital infrastructure from the ground up and the very real role that budget constraints play as broadcasters invest in new technology.
The new site will be nearly double the size of the station’s current 35,000-square-foot building, said Mike Doback, VP of engineering for the broadcast division of E.W. Scripps Co.
Technological changes include the installation of a high-definition infrastructure, the transition from analog to digital, a format change from beta to DVCPRO and the introduction of servers for commercials and news. “This is a huge jump from an analog operation using beta to a completely digital [facility],” Mr. Doback said.
As part of the format change, WCPO invested in 22 new Panasonic AJ-D610 cameras for use in the field. The station has an option to convert next year to Panasonic’s P2 solid-state camcorder that is tapeless and contains no moving parts.
In mid-October Scripps finished the vendor selection process. WCPO selected Thomson Grass Valley for studio cameras and production switchers, Euphonics for audio consoles, Nvision for routing and master control, and Omneon for servers.
Mr. Doback would not disclose the costs of the new facility. However, he said that WCPO is not simply investing in technology for technology’s sake. The changeover to DVCPRO, for instance, was necessary because the beta equipment was old and needed to be replaced.
Omneon is an interesting server choice since Thomson, Pinnacle and Leitch still dominate the server market. However, Omneon servers are better and faster and require less labor, Mr. Doback said.
Omneon has grown its market share over the past year from about 5 percent to nearly 10 percent of the domestic broadcast market, said Omneon’s Geoff Stedman, VP of marketing.
New customers include PBS, Univision and Raycom Media Group. Omneon’s platform is open, allowing editing systems and other broadcast equipment to look directly into an Omneon server without the need for an interface, Mr. Stedman said. “The industry is increasingly accepting this notion of open platforms,” he said.
The HD infrastructure at WCPO will include the capability to play and record in high definition and to route HD signals throughout the building. WCPO isn’t currently producing any content in HD but wants to have the ability to do so in the future. “We will put [studio] cameras in there that are HD-capable even though we don’t need them yet,” Mr. Doback said. “It would be a waste of money to buy a standard definition when we will probably do HD down the road.”
The WCPO facility is about 15,000 to 20,000 square feet smaller than the facilities of those three stations because of technological advances, Mr. Doback said. “At the end of the day, with improvements in technology and levels of automation, the space requirements have changed in the last 10 years,” he said. “Instead of a room with 20 videotape machines and people operating them, you have a room with file servers that takes a fraction of the space, maybe 25 percent of the space it would have taken to house all the videotape machines.”
Several other TV stations and networks have moved into new facilities during the past year. Court TV completed a new $3 million to $4 million, 3,400-square-foot digital master control room in May that includes a Sundance Digital automation system. The Sundance system allows the network to retain manual control during trial coverage and to be automated during original programming after 6 p.m., said Rob Pumo, senior VP of operations at Court TV.
CNBC began broadcasting from its new 350,000-square-foot facility and global headquarters on Oct. 13. The facility is digital, tapeless and 200,000 square feet larger than the old one. It cost less than $140 million.
In early 2002, New York’s 24-hour cable channel NY1 News moved into an entirely digital facility with Pinnacle servers, AP’s ENPS newsroom computer system and Omnibus for automation. The new site cost less than $30 million.
In Salt Lake City, Viacom-owned KUTV unveiled its new multimillion-dollar streetside studio complex last week.