After witnessing a string of natural disasters on the East Coast (earthquake, hurricane, flooding) and the potential threat of terrorist activity, the ABC Network began to rethink its disaster recovery systems. Having the network feed go down could mean millions of dollars in lost ad revenue.
Currently, the network has been operating two separate satellite feeds: a main feed from the ABC New York Operations Center and a backup feed out of its West Coast Technical Operations Center in Los Angeles. The satellite feed is comprised of three regional programming nets that could be accessed by its affiliated stations in the country's three time zones (Eastern, Mountain and Western). If the main feed is disrupted for any reason, the affiliated stations could look to the backup satellite feed to reclaim the network's programming schedule and stay on the air. The problem was that there was no backup to the origination of that signal for network programming.
About two years ago, the network's West Coast facilities began origination and shadowing of the primetime schedules of the New York network feeds to protect against failure. Early in 2011, it was decided that a 24/7 backup was critical. Systems integrators The Systems Group (TSG), Hoboken, NJ/Los Angeles was called in to build two new control rooms and several other rooms at the ABC Network Technical Center building in Los Angeles that could replicate all content originating in New York, complete with automation playlists and program rundowns.
Now, with the new facility, if something should happen in New York, ABC's West Coast Broadcast Operations & Engineering team can immediately originate the ABC Network's daytime and primetime programming schedule and make a transition to a second signal path, with minimal interruption.
The new facility features two identical 20 x 20 control rooms, an ingest room, a machine room and several ancillary rooms (e.g., announce booth and BS&P facilities) that have been built by a team of TSG engineers inside the ABC Network Technical Center building, located on its Prospect lot. The two multichannel rooms are equally capable of program origination or shadowing of the New York feed for three time zones. The way the new facilities have been architected, one room could handle all three time zones, but for redundancy, two rooms were built — featuring full program (file) ingest and segmenting capability — with full interoperability between them.
p Working from a design concept conceived by ABC engineers, TSG had four months to complete the project. The new facilities were finished in October and after testing and training, will officially launch on Dec. 1, 2011. Fortunately, there were no unexpected hurdles that required extensive reworking of the original design. That helped move the project along smoothly. ABC is now doing a 24/7 shadow of its three time zone schedules and is the foundation of ABC's disaster recovery plan when an unforeseen event occurs. The new facilities stand ready to take control of the ABC networks within seconds.
Mother Nature, bring it on.