A man of digital vision

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 February, 2008, 12:00am

Star Group's Edward Hanapole says HK is the place to be for media technology's evolution

While the intricate mechanisms remain a mystery to many, digital technology has drastically changed the media and entertainment industries in a short time, creating a new platform of application by giving life to multimedia content, and on-demand programming. The digital evolution includes the creation of analogue-to-digital converters and technology convergence that has made it possible to generate programming that appeals to the appetites of mainstream and niche audiences.

'Within a few short years digital media technology has become more advanced, making it accessible and increasingly useful for people all around the world,' said Edward Hanapole, Star Group chief information officer in charge of overseeing the company's information service and spearheading investment in digital media technology.

'One of the greatest joys of this business is that you have to understand the dynamics. Digital technology is not just providing customers with more choices it also has an impact on the way we operate across the entire organisation.'

He said it was the buzz and excitement, and what he described as the 'tremendous opportunities' offered by digital technology development in Asia that tempted him, his wife and their three daughters to Hong Kong from the United States. While his job involves a lot of travel, it is considerably less than the 360,000km a year Mr Hanapole used to clock up during his tenure with IBM.

'There is a lot going on in the world of digital technology, such as high definition streaming, and Asia is one of the places where some of the developments are taking place the quickest. Hong Kong is the right place to be at the right time. I enjoy working with a team that has drive and pride and, together, we are taking our brand to the next level,' said Mr Hanapole, who previously held the position of vice-president, global technology for News Corporation, which wholly owns the Star Group.

Rejecting the theme of Bruce Springsteen's 1990s hit 57 Channels (and Nothing On), Mr Hanapole believes digital media is already providing viewers with more content choice and access to information and entertainment than previously available. 'It is rewarding to be involved in a business that acts as an enabler allowing people to spend more time enjoying and learning from the programme content they want to watch,' said Mr Hanapole, who holds a bachelor of science degree in telecommunications management for television, radio and film from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.

Embracing the concept that 'content is king' from an early age, Mr Hanapole began in television media by organising video coverage of classroom elections at his New York high school. 'I knew which area I wanted to work in and began to nurture a career that would allow me to combine technology, music and media and all things content,' said Mr Hanapole, who composes music and plays keyboards and drums.

Technology savvy long before the most technically minded started talking about cross-platform interactive user-generated web-TV, Mr Hanapole used video technology to add animation and enhance interest during live musical performances.

Believing that luck has a more prominent role to play when combined with a positive outlook and a willingness to take chances, Mr Hanapole also used his skills and knowledge to build bridges that has seen his career progress across different areas of the media sector.

He has worked with the National Football League and Dow Jones financial services. However, while he works in an environment that focuses on immediacy, Mr Hanapole is quick to stress that there is no shortcut to instant career success in the digital technology industry. 'I advise young people there is no going from zero to commentating at a New York Giants game, and similarly there is no instant gratification in the technology industry. People need to work hard, learn all they can and be prepared to build bridges one piece at a time,' Mr Hanapole said.

While his family enjoys the Asian cultural experience and learns to speak Putonghua, Mr Hanapole and his team faces the challenge of satisfying the growing digital technology needs of 300 million viewers across 53 Asian countries and 60 television services in 10 languages. He said the goal was how to deliver multiple content that met consumer demand in a profitable way.

A part of the process involves projects delivering High Definition (HD) content to satisfy the growing legions of consumers that own HD viewing equipment. Other projects include converting thousands of hours of videotape into digital format that would provide end-users with on-demand viewing options. 'In the future people will be able to watch Casper the Friendly Ghost in Putonghua on demand,' Mr Hanapole said. He believes as more media and entertainment become available in digital formats, and traditional models of media packaging and distribution start to unravel, users will increasingly be spoilt for choice.

'Audiences are demanding new entertainment formats that can be delivered via computer, television and mobile devices. Previously, these would have been too expensive or too difficult for content providers to deliver,' said Mr Hanapole, whose work involves developing suitable programme content that can be viewed on a hand-held 8cm screen to a large two-metre screen.

Drawing on his knowledge of international sport, he said developing an idea and successfully seeing a project come to fruition was like hitting a cricket ball out of the ground. 'You don't find this level of motivation and excitement associated with a lot of other professions.' Mr Hanapole previously held the position of chief information officer with New York Times Digital, a division of The New York Times Company, before joining IBM Global Business Services as lead partner of its digital media practice and global executive for IBM's Global Digital Media group.

He said the rapid and widespread scope of digital technology development had created myriad opportunities for those with an interest in the business. In addition, because of the diverse nature of the sector opportunities exist not only for the technically minded, but also for those who provide support and sales and marketing roles. 'On the technical side a degree is a must, but people should ask a lot of questions, stay curious and look at ways technology can make a difference,' he advised.

He cautions that fresh graduates should be wary of joining the industry simply for technology's sake. 'There is plenty of room for those with strong vision and a passion for innovation,' said Mr Hanapole, who is happy to make a presentation in front of a large audience, but finds having his photograph taken uncomfortable.

Fact file

Developed an interest in television and media while attending high school

Graduated from S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University with a BSc degree in telecommunications management for television, radio and film

Worked in a number of technology related jobs including vice-president, global technology for News Corporation, chief information officer with New York Times Digital, and IBM Global Business Services as lead partner of its digital media practice and global executive for IBM's Global Digital Media group

In his position now he is in charge of overseeing the Star Group's information service and investment in digital media technology

Stepping Up

Senior technology management and experts

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