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NAB Perspectives: BeckTV’s Wright on Tapping Into New Market Segments, Future of 4K and IP

April 21st, 2015 Posted in Headlines By Karen Hogan

For systems integrators like BeckTV, the NAB Show isn’t about unveiling a product or demonstrating the latest software. It’s about meeting with customers, both old and new, and discussing past projects and embarking on new ones. And, with a roster of completed projects, including Dr. Pepper Ballpark (home of the Class AA Frisco RoughRiders), and the recent awarding of the AT&T Arena control-room project (home of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs), BeckTV had much to talk about at this year’s show. SVG sat down with Fred Wright, senior director of sales, Central Region, to discuss where business is booming (hint: it’s not where you’d expect), what he thinks about adopting an IP workflow, and why BeckTV has been exhibiting at NAB Shows for more than 30 years.

BeckTV has been an NAB Show exhibitor for quite some time. What’s new at this year’s show?
We’ve been displaying here at NAB for about 35 years now, and, as a systems integrator, we don’t have products to sell. This is basically just a place for us to come in and talk to [customers] about some of their engineering/integration needs and requirements. We’ve had very good traffic this year.

In addition to sports-venue projects like Dr. Pepper Park and AT&T Arena, BeckTV has been rather active in an unexpected market segment. What opportunities are you finding in the public-access space?
We’ve gotten involved with government municipality, especially government-access and public-access television. We were awarded the city of Austin for their city-council chambers. That was a $2.3 million upgrade [with] multiple control rooms feeding the city-council chambers, but they also do a lot of content-creation production and supporting the different departments within the city government. That was a really nice project.

A huge project that’s been in the works for a couple years is the city of San Antonio; again, it’s public access and government access, but that budget is up around $8 million. This was a project that was a complete demolition and renovation of a historic building called the Plaza de Armas. Within the Plaza de Armas, we built two studios, two production-control rooms, two audio-control rooms, a centralized central equipment room/technical center, 12 edit bays, and a SAN. The unique thing about this is, it’s a virtual-studio workflow: both studios are complete virtual studios [with] green screen and augmented reality, and cameras are all robotics. This was a Ross solution: we went with Ross Virtual Studio, Robotics, XPpression, Carbonite, and Inception. It was pretty much a Ross workflow [with an] Evertz infrastructure. So that’s kind of been a real feather in our cap. We’re seeing some opportunities there in the government- and public-access channels, [and] we’re going to be building four or five television stations this year. Our bandwidth is getting pretty full, so it’s been a very successful show for us so far.

As you said, BeckTV isn’t the type of company to unveil products at the NAB Show. Why is it important for the company to have a presence?
Basically, to support our existing customer base, because a lot of our business is referral and repeat business. We have relationships with station groups — such as Hearst, Journal, Sunbelt, and Sinclair — and various groups like that. It’s very important for us to have a presence here so they can see that we’re viable and what we’re doing.

It’s a great place for us to visit with new customers. As you know, the technology is changing and transitioning. We’re keeping up to speed with that. We’re integrating our media solutions that can be traditional baseband but also could incorporate IP and IT infrastructures, and we can blend them together, which makes it transparent to the customer. It’s important for us to have a presence here at NAB just because of how fast the technology is growing.

Do you use the time to look around at the different technologies that you’re integrating?
Certainly. We bring our core of engineers that are very well versed in the integration projects, and they’re tasked to go out, evaluate, and inspect new technologies: 4K, IPTV, media gateways, all the technologies that are out there. New technologies like 8K, just to keep us well versed and refreshed on the technologies [so] we can bring that to the customer.

And are there any technologies that you or your team has been particularly excited about this year?
Visually, the 4K is very immersive. It’s stunning. I like some of the technologies that allow the customer to look at a stopgap measure or a hybrid approach where they can blend baseband technologies with IP [using] these media gateways. I don’t think you need to jump into [IP] full force; you can work your way into it gradually as the technology changes. I think it’s still very immature. 8K, just for demonstration purposes, is stunning. Those technologies have been pretty fascinating.

It’s not likely that a customer will look to go 100% in on IP, so the gradual or hybrid approach seems far more likely in the near future. Are there any other trends you’re keeping an eye on?
I think 4K still has to mature. I think there’s a premium to the cost. As we discussed before, when we did the transition from SD to HD, there was really no financial value to the broadcaster because they certainly couldn’t charge the advertiser more for premium HD, so it was a loss for the broadcaster.

I think, again, you’re going to see more and more IP transition where ancillary data, video, audio, whatever other type of signals are required are going to be packetized into one exclusive, efficient network. I think fiber connectivity, fiber technology has really come a long way. Server technology [now has] more channels, more storage; the costs have gone down. We see that, and that’s another issue that I see with 4K. 4K eats up a lot of storage, so are we going to have that resident storage within the facility, or are you going to use 4K [for] archive or manage the assets in the cloud? Cloud technology is becoming quite apparent.

And now, reflecting on NAB 2015, did you accomplish what you set out to do?
Yes. The show’s been fabulous. [We] followed up on existing projects that are in the works, and we’ve been awarded other projects during the show. It’s been a very effective show for us.