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HLW Media Production Facility Cost Report 2023

Author HLW Staff

Tags Insight

Night view of a dynamic building facade featuring undulating ribbons of LED screens, casting vibrant hues of red, blue, and yellow light. The structure's curves juxtapose against the surrounding urban signage, creating a modern, lively atmosphere.

This year, the Cost Index is looking backward to look ahead.

The 2023 Cost Index has been quite some time in development. We last issued this document at the beginning of 2019 and the intention was to make this something we would issue every two years. A little thing called COVID-19 got in the way…

Along with all the other uncertainties that the pandemic created, big questions developed around planning the future of media facilities. What would happen to the costs of building and renovating broadcast and long-form production facilities when COVID was over? No one could have predicted the rate of inflation, nor the major issues surrounding supply chain uncertainty that marked the last two years. Infrastructure elements, in both electronic technology and electrical/mechanical items, have had major delays and/or cost increases. The uncertainty around both fundamental equipment groups has had a significant effect on the budget and schedule equation of any facility build or upgrade, broadcast, or long form.

The second big question was: What would happen to the workflow and design of production facilities? Would remote production workflow, which was so important to keeping broadcast media on the air during the pandemic, permanently change the way existing production and broadcast facilities were thought about and used? Would the space required to support safety protocols on longform sets require additional support areas? How would this affect the space and budget of production? It did not make sense to start a new Cost Index until some of these issues became clearer. And while nothing is clear yet, some things are coming into focus.

Clearly the last few years of the pandemic made it seem as if everything was going to change in the world of media production. Many new technologies and techniques were implemented in order to allow production to continue. It was not certain at many points if things would ever return to normal—and it is hard to know exactly what is normal, even now. And of course, sometimes things seem to change on the surface only to remain the same in their structure. While the jury seems to still be out on the future, the new ways of doing things are starting to come into focus. It seems clearer that the curve of change is going to be slower than we thought but still fast enough to be confusing, even in this industry where change has been nearly continuous.

With these ideas in mind, we decided to ask a few friends to talk with us about their experience in the world of the technical side of media production. These three guys have close to 150 years of experience combined and they are still going. Our questions range from how things were done in their early days (the 1960-70s) to what they see happening in the future.

It did not make sense to start a new Cost Index until some of these issues became clearer. And while nothing is crystal clear yet, some things are coming into focus.

To help us learn more about the answers we did three things:

  • We asked a few smart folks we know to speculate on the long-term effects of COVID on production workflow
  • We interviewed three broadcast industry technology greats and asked them about the past, the present, and the future of media production
  • We worked with two well-known construction firms with experience in the construction of media production facilities to get a set of reference budget costs, both for interior broadcast facilities and new building, long-form film and television facilities.

In the spirit of looking backward to look ahead, this year’s report is illustrated with a combination of images of some of the most notable HLW projects of the past, as well as work that is currently underway, both in design and under construction.

COVID is not over, instead it is merely a new fact of life. It created an enormous amount of change in the world and many of those changes have been heartbreaking. One of the smallest things it affected was our ability to issue this report. We hope you are able to find some useful knowledge in this report, or at least find it an interesting read.

Keith Hanadel, Principal Media + Entertainment