SAM 2010: Teamwork Is Critical to Broadcast-IT Success

At SVG’s fourth-annual Sports Asset Management forum, held July 20 at the PGA Tour Entertainment facility, the ever closer relationship between broadcast and IT took center stage. No matter the network or sport, teamwork and open communication between the broadcast and IT groups is critical to a successful asset-management and archiving system.

“There are days when I’m trying to take two philosophies and merge them, but kids coming out of school now have that crossover experience,” said Mark Haden, VP of engineering and IT for MLB Network. “It’s not a simple transformation to get a hybrid team. They do things in tandem, but they do different things.”

IT for Tat
In every sports office, cross-training is crucial. IT specialists must learn broadcast basics, and broadcasters must learn the ABCs of IT in order if asset management is going to be successful.

“People have to work together,” explained Tab Butler, director of media management for MLB Network. “You end up with a lot of the traditional IT persons asking some very interesting questions about broadcast technologies, and traditional broadcast-engineering persons trying to understand IT. As long as you’re fostering an environment that can share information and it doesn’t become confrontational and territorial, then you’re on the road to success.”

When pairing the needs of engineering and IT, the culture of an organization must also be taken into account. The company must be assessed not just for its competencies and skill sets but for its culture as well.

“I don’t know that it matters who the leader is, but what’s important is that it’s one leader,” said Darrell Wenhardt, president of CBT Systems. “One of the biggest problems we see is a two-headed snake, and that creates the politics. You have to get past that.”

IT for Business
Success can begin with a siloed approach as well. Steve Evans, SVP of information systems for the PGA Tour, noted that there are 45 people in the PGA Tour’s IT department and their first introduction to the broadcast side was when broadcasters began using IP-based equipment. The team then determined that the “A/V” (broadcast) network had to be separated from the “business” (IT) network.

“We quickly figured out that we needed some sort of asset-management system to preserve our assets; the problem was creating the business case,” Evans said. “We spent a lot of time with the two areas studying the business and mapping out everything that takes place. IT played the biggest role at the early stages in building the business case. From there, we’ve tried to figure out how to merge our two teams.”

Getting Secure
On the broadcast side at PGA Tour Entertainment, nonlinear editing was the crossover point into IT, and opened the door for a whole new set of questions about security.

“As we went through nonlinear editing, my guys on the broadcast side learned a tremendous amount about overall network security and its benefits,” said David Dukes, senior director of technical operations for PGA Tour Entertainment.

In the world of IT, security is an important issue, with a range of possible solutions. Where the PGA Tour took a heightened approach to security, not allowing any vendors direct access to its networks, MLB Network began with a wide-open firewall setting and has only recently begun locking down the firewall.

According to Wenhardt, vendors can sometimes answer questions that networks alone may not be able to, so keeping some level of open-firewall settings is important. “It is very important to give vendors access, because you can’t tap into vendors’ resources,” he said. “One person on the other side of the country can probably solve this quickly for you, but, if they can’t get into it to look at it, they can’t help you. We have 30 ballparks that are all extensions of the MLB Network, and there’s not a device that doesn’t have an IP address. Without that, we’d have to dispatch people throughout the field.”

MLB Network has an edge, Haden added, because nearly every service provider working on the network’s system has been involved with the network since its inception. “That’s a huge advantage. They know what its purpose in life is because they helped build it.”

Assigning responsibility for service and management is important, but creating visibility, Evans said, is even more important.

“Everything that’s done must be documented so that all the other people who might want to know can read what’s happened,” he said. “Creating that visibility is the most important piece, so that you can make sure that you didn’t solve one problem but create three others.”