For IP, the Universe Is Expanding

Vendors, warming to the challenges, continue to improve systems for streamlined multiplatform workflows 12/17/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern

As broadcasters turn their eyes toward
2013, some of the biggest issues they face revolve
around what might be called the IP challenge.
How can they deliver more content to Internet-connected
devices like tablets and computers? And
how can they make better use of IP and IT products
from the computer and online worlds to reduce some
of their capital and operating costs?

Both trends have boosted the popularity of channelin-
a-box, or integrated playout, solutions that combine
automation, graphics and other elements of a traditional
master control onto a single server that is often
based on less expensive off-the-shelf technologies.

“The debate over whether you buy a more traditional
chain for your broadcast infrastructure or you
buy a more integrated, channel-in-a-box solution is
going away,” says Scott Rose, Miranda senior product
manager, iTX. “And it’s going away because people are
seeing the proof of all kinds of channels being run with
these channel-in-a-box and IT solutions.”

Rose adds that demand for Miranda’s integrated
playout product iTX is greatly outstripping demand for
its more traditional automation systems. The iTX platform
is being adopted by major broadcasters around
the world, including the CBC in Canada and some
large U.S. broadcasters, that were once seen as unlikely
candidates for channel-in-a-box offerings.

“The whole channel-in-the-box discussion
is being driven by improvements in technologies”
for processing power and storage, adds Graham
Sharp, chief marketing officer, Grass Valley,
which is seeing growing demand for its K2 Edge
integrated automated playout solutions. “You can
now have enough processing power and storage
in a single unit to run a full suite of products that can
fully automate a channel.”

These solutions will also be increasingly important
for the delivery of content to multiple screens. Sharp
notes that revenue for streaming
mobile and online services has
been relatively limited, making
it necessary to reduce costs by
automating digital distribution.

An integrated playout or
channel-in-a-box system addresses
that problem because
“it is easy to add a secondary
or alternative channel to serve
mobile or whatever platform,”
Sharp says. “It gives them a
lower-cost way to service second-
screen or over-the-top

To help satisfy that demand,
Miranda recently added an IP
output to the latest version of
its iTX integrated playout system.
“We are well-positioned to support customers
making the transition to IP and IP business,” Rose
says. “In the latest iTX, we put in an IP output so you
can simulcast over IP to an over-the-top provider.”

Having an IP solution from a traditional broadcast
vendor is important because it operates like a traditional
master control. “You want to have the benefits of IP
without having to retrain everyone in the building to
run it,” Rose says.

These developments also highlight the fact that the
nature of automation has been expanding from simply
automating the functions of the master control into automating
the broader workflows necessary for both linear
TV broadcasts and multiplatform delivery, notes Mark
Darlow, senior portfolio product manager, automation
and digital asset management at Harris Broadcast.

“We have reengineered our automation system and
moved [our clients] to a service-based architecture that
not only allows them to be IP-based but also makes it
part of a broader content management and delivery
system,” Darlow explains. “The whole notion of automation
is expanding.”

This gives clients the flexibility to easily define
workflows for automated delivery of content to multiple
platforms. “A lot of customers are trying to differentiate
themselves with mobile products,” adds Chuck
Koscis, manager of product interoperability at Harris
Broadcast. “Our system allows them to leverage existing
assets and deliver them to Web and mobile [platforms]
in a more automated way.”

This also makes it easier to insert ads into different
streams and better monetize mobile and other digital
platforms, Koscis explains.

By more closely integrating automation with larger
asset management systems and workflows, broadcast
equipment vendors are also looking to automate more
aspects of live sports production, an area that has traditionally
resisted automation, notes Grass Valley’s Sharp.

“We are reaching the point where automation, asset
management and workflow management systems are
merging,” in ways that can “reduce the amount of
manual intervention in the process of producing live
events,” he says.

Live sports and breaking news can, however, pose
problems for automating master control and playout
with traditional channel-in-a-box platforms, argues
Reed Haslam, director of sales and marketing, NVerzion.

Haslam believes many broadcast networks and stations
still need greater flexibility and better redundancy
than a typical channel-in-a-box solution can provide.
To address those issues, NVerzion has developed a
component-based system for tying together automation
and the traditional master control functions.

“It allows for great flexibility but has the huge savings
for automated and advanced workflows,” Haslam says.
At the NAB show next April, NVerizon expects to be offering
complete automation packages with various manufacturers,
including Ross Video and Utah Scientific.

Ross Video has also been expanding the multipleplatform
delivery capabilities of its OverDrive automation
system. Its QuickTurn product, for example,
automatically clips and creates stories for the Web as a
newscast is being played out.

Scott Bowditch, OverDrive product marketing
manager at Ross Video, also notes that the company
is focusing on tighter integration with a wider range
of products. Its OverDrive system already interfaces
with more than 100 products, with more to come.

“There is much more demand from clients for an
open architecture,” Bowditch says. “The more [products]
you can interface with, the more attractive you are
to clients. They want to be able to choose best-in-class
hardware to work with the automation system.”

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