Diversified Systems Shines in Design-Build of Pac-12 Enterprises’ Studios

On a Friday afternoon a little over a year ago, Duane Yoslov was waiting in his car to pick up his child from school when his cellphone rang. He recognized the area code but not the number. Figuring it was a developer his company, Diversified Systems, was working with, he took the call and discovered that it was Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott.

“Everybody knew [Pac-12 Networks] was coming, but nobody really knew how it was going to go down,” says Yoslov, who is SVP, sales and operations, for Diversified’s West region.

Just days earlier, Scott had put the finishing touches on a $2.7 billion television deal with Fox and ESPN, and here he was calling Yoslov.

Today, Yoslov reflects, “That’s the kind of guy he is. He picks up the phone, makes a call, and does things directly. He’s a straight shooter, a nice guy, and, obviously, very smart.”

That call eventually led to a partnership that awarded Diversified Systems the task of building the nascent Pac-12 Enterprises’ San Francisco-based production facility, and the team headed by lead systems architect Greg Doyle got right to work on the design-build.

The Pac-12 Enterprises project was unlike any challenge Diversified had ever taken on. With work beginning in December, the company had only eight months to get a fully operational broadcast online to serve not one but seven new networks.

“It is as aggressive a launch as we have ever seen,” says Yoslov. “We have never done this large of a project on this short of a timeline. We have taken every known means of expediting a project and employed it in the execution of this project. We all have a lot of experience in this type of project, and it’s important to continue making decisions jointly with our customer as quickly as possible.”

As a comparison, Diversified is also working with Time Warner Cable to build the new Los Angeles Lakers network. That project began in July 2011 and won’t be completed until the network hits air in late October.

Shortly after Scott’s call to Yoslov, Diversified Systems’ execs met with the administrators of the Pac-12 Conference; Pac 12 Enterprises had yet to hire a single employee. After some preliminary discussions, the two companies agreed to meet again a few weeks later.

Diversified President/CEO/founder Fred D’Alessandro flew in from the company’s home office in Kenilworth, NJ, for that meeting, which included Pac-12 Enterprises’ first employee, President Gary Stevenson. Having met with Diversified on his first day on the job, Stevenson called the Diversified team back to award them the project and to start the clock on the accelerated design-build.

To combat the time crunch, Diversified began a pre-build, with racks of gear and infrastructure constructed in their Santa Clara, CA fabrication shop prior to the crew’s entering the Pac-12 facility, which didn’t have its formal groundbreaking until mid February.

Pac-12 Enterprises execs also found it best to outsource the company’s transmission and master control to the Comcast Media Center in Denver. According to Yoslov, that helped spread the workload so that no one contractor or partner was overloaded during the process.

“Yes, it’s about building it quickly, but you still have to make good decisions that allow them the flexibility to grow and to accommodate change over time,” says Yoslov. “The central equipment, as part of the network, is scaled large enough so that they can bring master-control and network operations in-house in the future if they choose to. It’s important to put enough infrastructure in place to be able to handle a certain amount of growth.”

Doyle works closely with Pac-12 Enterprises SVP of Technology Hal Reynolds, a 30+ veteran of the broadcast-media industry, to design the studios and facility. Diversified’s systems engineer Mark Sackett, Systems Engineer Andre Ferrer, Project Manager Marcus Mahan, and consultant John Hartwell all played key roles in the build. Pac-12 Enterprises was running successful transmission tests between campuses and CMC in Denver by mid July.

“Diversified Systems did a great job with our facilities here,” says Leon Schweir, SVP of productions and operations at Pac-12 Enterprises. “The engineering team deserves plenty of accolades for the job they’ve done.”

In addition to the production center, Diversified also helped Pac-12 Enterprises design a flight-case video-production system that was installed on each of the conference’s 12 campuses. The component allows for quick link-up for multicamera feeds that the networks will use for C- and D-level events, ones that will likely air exclusively on the digital network.

According to Schweir, the “flypack” network will be deployed so that games can be produced, directed, and even called by announcers from the San Francisco studios, keeping travel costs and mobile-unit costs down.