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Broadcasters have been moving to both virtualization and cloud technology for several years as a way to standardize functionality across large station groups, achieve new efficiencies in production and master control workflows, and perhaps even save on real estate, power and maintenance costs.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated that shift, according to top broadcast and technology executives who gathered last week for a TVNewsCheck virtual event.
NBCUniveral Local’s Trajectory
The NBCUniversal Local Stations were well down the path of virtualization before COVID-19 forced many broadcasters to evacuate their facilities in March 2020 and rapidly switch to new remote production workflows. The group first announced a major virtualization initiative at TVNewsCheck’s NewsTECHForum back in December 2018. And by September 2019, NBCU had launched a virtualized news production scheme at KBLR, the Telemundo station in Las Vegas, with the hardware located 1,200 miles away at a remote data center in Dallas and connected via low-latency fiber links.
The model for KBLR and a few other Telemundo stations running their news through the data center was to take a “lift-and-shift” approach and move applications previously run on proprietary broadcast hardware to virtual machines connected by IP networking, said Matt Varney, VP media technology, NBCU Local. By doing so, NBCU achieved about a 95% virtualization rate across its production environment.
While the technical achievement of the Dallas data center was significant, NBCU saw it as only an initial step in an eventual move