SoundView Broadcasting (SVB), based in Long Island, New York, USA, specialises in distributing international ethnic TV content. It brings in the content from abroad; India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Middle East and Africa and re-distributes it onto platforms including the Dish Network and Direct TV in the Unites States, Bell and Rogers in Canada, and BSkyB in the UK. This rapidly expanding, specialised operation is fine tuned to allow programmes to be turned around for ‘same day’ distribution, or broadcast live.
Sarmad Zafar, Vice President, describes the workflow “We bring in the content and make it available for the US and other markets. We customise the feeds according to requirements of the local markets of the countries they will be transmitted to. This involves re-purposing the material, taking out the commercials and inserting new local ones. For example, programmes received from India have their commercials removed and new US commercials for broadcasting over the Dish Network, and English commercials for broadcast on BSkyB in the UK.
To acquire the necessary programmes, SVB has its own facilities in Asia, Hong Kong and Singapore that downlink the live broadcast channels and forward them to New York via fibre-optic links for recording on local servers. The programmes are re-purposed by removing the original commercials and inserting new ones for the designated country. Zafar comments, “Having the programmes coming to us from Asia, which is about 10 hours ahead, is a real advantage for us. It gives us time to prepare them in good time for transmission.” At the same time the traffic system produces the playlists and makes the content available for going on-air.
News is different. It has to be live and so the insertion of the news commercials has also to be live. For this the news broadcaster in Asia sends a cue tone to start the commercial playback from the PlayBox AirBox and to cut this into the output. At the end of the break, another cue tone switches the output back to the live programme.
A third style of workflow is used for the six to eight channels that originate from the four well-equipped studios at New York facility. These do not have any on-air graphics so they are added using TitleBox.
Zafar traces SVB’s interest in PlayBox Technology. “We already had video servers from Grass Valley and SeaChange. We already had automation from Aveco – before we started to use PlayBox. We chose PlayBox because it is a modular solution. So I can add an AirBox if I want to. I can add a CaptureBox or a TitleBox if I want to. With the other systems you have to buy them complete with four or five channels. With PlayBox I can just order one new AirBox for one new channel, and so I don’t have to make the investment for a three or four channels that are not going to be used yet. With PlayBox I can grow as I want.”
SVB has been operating for only five years. The initial one channel grew to three in the second year and the broadcaster continues its rapid expansion. It was the first customer for PlayBox Technology USA after it opened in July 2007 and now has a total of 20 AirBox video servers, and supporting CaptureBox ingest servers and TitleBox graphics servers all playing their part in powering SVB’s current 25 channels. Zafar expects the channel count to be 30 in 2011 and there are plans to eventually double the current number of channels.
There is a large production side to SVB as it offers clients facilities that include four production studios where they can shoot their own local programmes and air them via the available feeds. This can be broadcast live.
At the moment the studios are in the process of being upgraded to HD, which is due for completion in the first quarter of 2011. Zafar says, “We use industry-standard top-of-the-line equipment including Thomson Grass Valley Encore Routing Control System. The cameras are all high-end LDK300 and 400, HDR LDK camera. Panasonic P2 2000 and 3000 cameras are used for field production.”