Pubcasters are struggling to get the PRSS ContentDepot program distribution system to a point where stations feel comfortable using it.
In a message to stations recently, Scott Hanley, chairman of the Chair of the Distribution/Interconnection Committee of the NPR Board, says dual operations for the new system and the legacy system will now continue through at least the end of April.
While some aspects of the system are working, others are not and both PRSS and station personnel are on a big learning curve with “ConDep.”
The biggest challenge of the deployment for PRSS has been addressing the discrepancy between the capabilities of the “Portal” (no, not the one in Star Trek), which is the end-user software interface to the ContentDepot system, and the different operational realities at the station level. Station staffing levels vary, ranging from fully staffed 24/7 to those that have few paid staff and rely heavily on automation. Stations also use different automation systems and encoders, differences that are also affecting each station’s ConDep experience.
Stations report problems with scheduling conflicts, programs with inconsistent filenames, late or undelivered programs, time-consuming data entry and a significant increase in staff time to ensure the system is running properly.
Sources report having to subscribe to upwards of 400 program “events,” with just the sheer volume leading to missed feeds, for example. Early on, stations not on the East Coast had to adjust their time requests (to subscribe to a program event) to EST, adding to the confusion. They report a couple of system-wide “detuning” events recently where all the decoders lost the channel they were supposed to be on.
They sum up the experience as a case study in how a big technological change is fraught with problems.
Although some of these problems will be addressed through additional training of station staff, more development time is required to update the Portal code and bring the promise of ContentDepot to meet its potential, sources believe.
The question remains: How long it will take and how much will it cost?
Hanley stated: “The more we learn, the more we know how to work toward resolution. But it is not a quick process, as we want to build systems that will be effective and consistent for the long haul.”