Widening Choices in Broadcast Playout

Monday, November 9, 2015

2015 has proved a landmark year for PlayBox Technology with more than 16,000 playout and branding channels round the world now powered by our range of products. We now have an over 30 per cent share of the total worldwide playout channel market and a far higher proportion of the channel-in-a-box sector.

Development of the current PlayBox Technology product family remains a dominant feature of our strategy, both now and in the long term, as well as 24/7 support. The AirBox universal playout and streaming automation server remains the centrepiece of our highly successful product range, supported by a wide selection of modules that can be combined to handle anything from a single channel regional service to a global multichannel broadcast operation transmitting via terrestrial, satellite, cable and internet.

Software-centric playout

A growing number of exhibitors at broadcast trade shows over the past three to four years have been claiming their ability to operate in 'the cloud', meaning in most cases that they had finally woken up to the concept of using networked computing and storage to archive and process data held at third-party data centres. PlayBox Technology has been supplying cloud based solutions in this context right back to 2008 when we launched EdgeBox which was developed following a cry for help from one of the world's leading broadcasters. Hundreds if not thousands of customers today use EdgeBox to control playout servers based at data centres and head-ends around the world. The actual expansion in demand we are seeing now is from people wanting to deploy software on their existing servers.

At IBC in September we made the first announcement of our CloudAir broadcast playout platform. CloudAir is a totally software-centric suite of software able to provide true playout with graphics on any enterprise-class blade, rack or tower server. Once the software is installed, no auxiliary hardware is required at all. CloudAir attracted a huge level of interest from multinational, national and regional broadcasters, not least as a basis for adding supplementary channels to an existing bouquet.

Real cloud playout, with graphics and branding, allows broadcasters to introduce new channels on an operational expenditure basis rather than investing in dedicated hardware. Established broadcasters who have already bought their own playout systems will naturally want to get the maximum possible life from that investment before considering any change to a new mode of working.

Ultra-fast channel startup

Cloud-based operation completely rewrites the financial model for broadcasters, allowing new channels for tightly specified subjects or regions to be introduced quickly without demanding up-front capital. The cloud model allows entirely new broadcast operations to be activated without the need to configure existing hardware, let alone order new equipment. CloudAir was designed to include ad hoc services that may only be needed for an hour or even less. New services or channels would therefore genuinely be up and running in little more time than it takes to boot up a hardware-based system.

In terms of a 24/7 channel starting on the cloud playout model, an efficient telco should be able to get these live in a matter of a few minutes, when needed.

The most significant costs of running any programme channel then become, as arguably they always have been, the overheads of originating, acquiring or refining content and employing whatever administrative and creative people the organisation needs.


Single highly reliable media ecosystem

CloudAir enables broadcasters to conduct their entire operation, from content acquisition, refining and archiving, right through to playout, via a single highly reliable media ecosystem which can be accessed and managed from practically any location, at any time.

We expect early adopters to be multichannel broadcasters who want to schedule channels with local programming and advertising for specific single or multiple regions rather than using multiple satellite feeds with ad-insertion. Other early adopters will be existing content owners who now gain fast, easy and cost-efficient access to viewers.

Cloud broadcasting will also enable vertical niche channels to get established within tighter budgets than was previously possible. Established broadcasters gain the ability to introduce auxiliary channels aligned to specific events or special-interest supplementary programme feeds.


Virtualised broadcast playout service

The CloudAir platform builds has already been selected by a global provider of telecommunications facilities to support its new virtualised broadcast playout service. Established broadcasters in major European countries, the Middle and Far East are also very excited by CloudAir's potential, not least its ability to power fast-startup dedicated OTT channels. Ortana Media Group also announced during IBC that combining its Cubix Integration, Automation and Orchestration system with PlayBox Technology AirBox and CloudAir creates a solution that natively supports highly scalable cloud playout and cloud-enabled edge playout platforms. With the ability to configure agile workflows that support every element of the transmission process, the Ortana solution allows completely new approaches to providing efficient and scalable models for linear playout, OTT services and OVP distribution.

CloudAir is also attracting great interest from broadcasters seeking cost effective and reliable disaster recovery as well as moving existing channels into cloud-based playout. When specified correctly, CloudAir allows cloud-based playout, backup and disaster recovery to be achieved all-in-one via the cloud.