Indiana Public Broadcasting Stations is taking baby steps toward a centralcasting model similar to its counterparts in New York and Florida by launching an IP-based video network that will let its television and radio stations share and manage content more efficiently and at a cheaper cost.
Once a rollout across the group’s eight TV stations and nine NPR radio stations is completed in early September, all member stations will have real-time content sharing, collaboration and distribution capabilities. The system will be configured at WFYI Indianapolis. Roger Rhodes, executive director of IPBS, say a couple of stations will come on to the network every few weeks throughout the summer.
“We’ve been discussing for years what we would do if we were interconnected,” says Rhodes. “All of those ideas can come to pass now.”
For example, Rhodes says each of the PBS stations have always wanted to carry more Indiana sports programming from local high school and colleges, but were challenged because content needed to be sent via satellite to Nebraska, where a PBS regional uplink center is located, and then shot back to the Indiana PBS station that wanted the content.
With the new network, one station could produce the game and share the content with the other stations in real-time on an easily accessible network.
“This new network gives everyone instant access — it’s essentially a station on-demand,” says Rhodes.
Other examples of sharing and collaborating on content include school quiz shows that each of the local PBS stations are already producing, says Rhodes. “Each station could have their particular region’s quiz show that could then feed into a statewide championship.”
By including the NPR radio stations in the network, broadcast video can be shared to publish on each radio station’s website and vice-versa, says Rhodes. News reports from NPR will likely make their way over to the local PBS station’s websites and potentially on-air.
Harris Broadcast was chosen as the key vendor for the IP network. The complete solution includes the company’s Selenio video networking solution, Intraplex IP Link 100 and 200 codecs for audio networking and its Magellan NMS solution for network-wide systems control and management.
Rhodes estimated the investment to be under $500,000 for IPBS.
The IP network is likely only the first step toward deeper collaboration and consolidation for IPBS, says Rhodes. While not finalized, he says he will know in the next few months if Indiana will follow New York and Florida with a centralcasting model and combine master control operations statewide.
“We see this as a threshold opportunity and we certainly maintain an interest in what’s going on in New York and Florida,” says Rhodes. “We should have enough information in the next six to eight weeks to assess any real savings under that model.”
The centralcasting model in New York is expected to save about $25 million in operating costs over the next decade. In Florida, about $300,000 to $500,000 is expected to be saved each year, mostly from cutting salaries, since there would only be one team of master control operators at the central hub, compared to an operator at each of the individual stations.
The PBS groups in New York and Florida used Evertz as their main vendor for their respective hub-and-spoke models. If decided to follow in that direction, Rhodes says he would explore all vendors, including Harris.