PixelPower

Pixel Power helped Weigel realise its ambitions without compromising on reliability or capability

The client

Weigel Broadcasting Co. has a history of innovation beginning with its birth as the first UHF station in Chicago in 1964 and extending through its recent growth as a national provider of digital TV multicast services. The company has grown over the years to serve adjacent markets in Milwaukee, WI and South Bend, Indiana and most recently it took the ambitious step of creating a new news operation for its ABC-affiliated South Bend station WBND-TV.

The challenge

In September 2010, Weigel Broadcasting made the decision to strengthen its position in the South Bend market by adding fully localised newscasts to its operation. Until that time, WBND had been running a single 11pm newscast that was produced by sister station WDJT in Milwaukee and only included local weather information. The decision was an uncommon one to take—few U.S. stations of WBND’s size have locally-produced newscasts.

Weigel’s ambitious plans were to deliver full-length news daily at 6am, 6pm and 11pm. This would require the construction of a completely new operation beginning with the selection of a building to house the facility and the design and deployment of a complete news production operation, as well as the hiring and training of staff.

With less than six months allotted to launch the station, the company’s priority was to find proven solutions that could be integrated with minimal effort while offering a high return on the investment through operational efficiencies, low maintenance, automation and the creation of a compelling “look” for the station’s news.

The graphics system was identified early in the process as a lynchpin to a successful launch, and not only for its impact on appearances-- the quantity of graphics that would be needed each day meant that getting this decision right would have a constant impact on the station’s operation and success that could be gauged every day.

The right system would need to integrate with the station’s automation system and other key components. Reliability was also essential—the system could not present Weigel’s lean team of engineers and operators with ongoing technical, maintenance or functional issues. And, while WBND is in a small market, decisions makers felt strongly that they did not want the news to look “small market.”

The solution

WBND decision makers looked first at incumbent systems used within the company, but quickly realised that the status quo came with too many compromises. Their tight time schedule meant that the best solution needed to rise to the top quickly. 

The decision made, the team at Pixel Power readily supplied interfaces to WBND’s critical infrastructure including its iNews news system and Grass Valley Ignite production automation system. This would give WBND a coherent, uninterrupted signal path and workflow. By early March, the facility’s graphics were ready for the April 1 launch.  

Technical Directors cite the need to maintain quality control over a variety of contributors to the news program. Web-based tools from Pixel Power simplify the iterative process of readying content and finalizing approvals prior to playout. With mere weeks separating deployment from the launch of the news programs, WBND staff needed to achieve a high degree of competency in minimal time.

Clarity tools are designed to be instantly familiar to anyone with graphics experience, meaning operators were able to begin work on the station’s look quickly. Tight integration with iNews simplifies the creation of graphics to suit news requirements. The use of Pixel Power Control Center provides WBND with automated asset management for graphical content in the iNews environment, simplifying the production of broadcast news graphics.

The results

Pixel Power Clarity graphics systems were instrumental to the on-time launch of WBND. The surest sign of success is the scramble the station’s launch caused amongst local competition. The sophistication of the look used for the news stands in stark contrast to other in stations in the market and has had a significant impact on viewership. Veteran staff point to the system reliability as providing a markedly different experience from what they had grown accustomed to with past systems that required frequent rebooting to be stable.

Summary

Weigel faced a tight schedule and high expectations for the premier of its news operation at WBND in South Bend, Indiana. Cost and complexity are frequently barriers to fully localized news in small markets. Pixel Power helped Weigel to realise its ambitions without having to compromise on reliability or capability. The efficiencies and capabilities established in South Bend have influenced Weigel’s plans for upgrading its news operations in the larger markets of Chicago and Milwaukee.