The CW affiliate in Sioux Fall, S.D., needed an economical master control that would allow it to insert spots and infomercials into proliferating network feeds. It found what it was looking for in the Harris DTP-300.
A couple of years ago, Jim Simpson, the owner and GM of KWSD, the CW affiliate in Sioux Falls-Mitchell, S.D., was looking around for a new master control solution that would grow with his station.
Simpson wanted a system that could power the companion low-power station, KAUN, an RTV affiliate, and that had enough headroom for secondary digital channels on both stations.
Simpson considered the options. “We could go, obviously, with a traditional broadcast model with full-blown master control and an operator pushing buttons,” he says. “Or we could go with an automated system.”
But both approaches were too costly.
So, in the end, he opted for a third: the Harris DTP-300 Digital Turnaround processor, which allows stations to insert local commercials and infomercials directly into their ASI network feeds as they are received via satellite — without the need for operator intervention and monitoring.
“We needed this to work standalone,” says Mark Walter, who was operations manager at KWSD at the time and who still consults for Simpson. “It sits at an unattended transmitter site 10 or 15 miles from the station so it needed to be reliable.”
“With the Harris DTP-300, they can put the EAS on both the KWSD and KAUN streams,” adds John Bennett, the chief engineer for the stations. “And just because it can do that on more than one stream at a time, it’s a cost-saving method of doing it.
“Otherwise they would have had to use a converter to split the signal from the ASI to video and audio formats, buy a character generator to send it through, and then afterwards combine it again. And, with two program streams, you might end up having to duplicate the effort for each one.”
The possibility of using the Harris DTP-300 came up during a meeting that Walter had with Harris regional sales manager Fred Ramsey. “I happened to mention that we had this project coming up with KWSD and KAUN, and that we would have to start searching for a server,” says Walter. “He told me about the Harris DTP-300, and it fit our needs so well, we didn’t look further.”
Walter’s recommendation was good enough for Simpson. “I put a lot of weight in what our engineers and operations guys say,” says Simpson. “Fred [Ramsey] came in and did a full presentation, and this was the right product with the right name and the right backing.”
According to Pat McCoy, Harris senior engineering manager/product line manager, the unique feature of the DTP-300 is its built-in server.
“Traditionally, you would buy a video server and an ad splicer to accomplish the same thing the DTP can do,” he says. “The DTP-300 has its own storage, so that it can ingest live content and switch it with the content on storage and then back again to live content. Being able to do long-form content play-out and local ad insertion within the same box is a huge cost savings and isn’t done on any other product out there.”
The amount of storage is also flexible. On board, the DTP-300 has 10 hours of HD or 60 hours of SD storage. Through connection with NAS devices, however, the storage is infinite.
Bennett never calculated the savings for KWSD, but he did for another station for which he serves as chief engineer, the Fox affiliate in Sioux Falls, S.D., KTTW (and its satellite in Huron, KTTM).
KTTW plans to add This TV Network on a digital subchannel on July 1 and so it needed a solution similar to KWSD’s.
“I did all the research,” says Bennett. “I discovered if we went through the traditional route of taking the ASI stream, converting it back to audio/video, sending it through a [character generator] and then converting back to ASI and into the transmitter, it would have run between $65,000 and $75,000 to do that. Given that, the DTP-300 costs $34,000, that’s a savings of between $31,000 and $41,000.”
Despite Bennett’s due diligence, Bennett never purchased the DTP-300 for KTTW. This TV settled on Grass Valley Group’s Sapphire unit for all of its affiliates.
“It does handle the EAS requirement, but it doesn’t have the server,” says Bennett. “For my money, you’d want to go with the DTP-300, which would allow them to do local ads.”
Harris’ McCoy says the DTP-300 isn’t aimed only at small market stations, noting that several NBC O&Os have put out a secondary weather channel using the DTP-300.
“It’s intended to allow any station to add second, third and fourth channels to a DTV broadcast,” he said. “But, in a small market, cost is more of an issue usually and putting on a secondary channel to air is often cost prohibitive.”
At KWSD, Simpson is still firming up plans for secondary channels on both KWSD and KAUN.
“We believe that hyper-local content in a market will always be valuable,” said Simpson. “The fact that the Harris DTP-300 will do multiple stations and give us a lot of flexibility was key. With the Harris box, we can grow, and it will grow with us.”