Guide to Playout


Playout – the term has faced continuous evolution over time. To this day, depending on your industry, the exact definition can vary pretty widely. In this guide, we’ll cover the history of playout, where we’re at with playout technology currently, and where we might see playout go in the future. Stick around and take a journey into the history and future of a crucially important aspect of the broadcasting world.

What is playout?

Let’s begin with the basics. Playout covers the broadcasting processes, equipment and software required to convert and play source media and channel content to an external on-air environment. Playout has come to mean various different things as technology and broadcasting has progressed – whether it’s a DVD player or a complex network of TV channel automation systems, it’s all made possible because of playout.

In broadcasting, playout software can be handled centrally as part of a master control room. This makes sense for capital-intensive and scaled up operations, and often requires specialist hardware. As time goes on, with the advancement of virtualisation and cloud & hybrid-cloud technologies, bulky and expensive specialist hardware is becoming less of an obstacle. Playout can also be handled through playout centres and managed playout services. In these cases, the playout service provider will handle the transmission of content schedules and sequences to the platforms required by the broadcaster – minimising the on-site infrastructure and hardware expenditure of the broadcaster.

Linear and non-linear playout

A loose definition of the term ‘linear’ is as follows: arranging something in a sequential, straight line. To understand linear playout, we can picture a sequential line of content being distributed as a pre-planned schedule. This makes up the television that we’ve known for all of our lives – tuning in at 8pm sharp every wednesday to watch that show you’re hooked on. You’re dependent on the program guide, and commercial breaks are largely generic to cater towards large, undifferentiated audiences.

As you might have guessed, the term ‘non-linear’ concerns the non-sequential processes. In other words, non-linear playout covers the content that isn’t delivered as part of a pre-planned schedule. It’s encapsulated within video on demand (VOD), subscription video on demand (SVOD), transactional video on demand (TVOD) and advertising-based video on demand (AVOD). Each format differs in its approach, but largely serves the same purpose – giving audiences the content they want to see, whenever they want to see it. You might have heard it being described as going ‘over the top’ (OTT). OTT covers the content that’s distributed direct-to-consumer (DTC) over internet connections.

With the boom of platforms like Netflix and DAZN over the last decade, it’s safe to say that non-linear playout has become an exciting (and profitable) endeavour for new and existing broadcasters alike. Analysis of your viewing habits and the serving of advertisements tailored towards your interests presents a unique opportunity for ultra-specific segmentation and targeting which is rarely seen in the realm of traditional, linear television.

PlayBox Technology 

At PlayBox, playout is at the core of what we do. Since our inception in the early 2000’s, we’ve been fascinated by new ways to automate, streamline and pioneer the ultimate playout experience. That’s where the revolutionary TV Channel in a Box came in – integrating the external processes of a complete playout experience (graphics, ingest, scheduling & playout) into one box.

Over the years, we’ve supplemented our core offering with cloud playout and hybrid-cloud options like CloudAir, MEGA ICX, Cosmos in a Box and Cosmos. We recognise the changing requirements of our broadcasters, big and small, and work with them to accommodate those needs. Couple that with our 24/7 expert support, and you’re onto a winner.

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