Thinking Inside The Box

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

First of all, congratulations! At IBC this year you announced your 13,200th TV playout and channel branding solution sold. The PlayBox Technology brand has achieved global recognition over a difficult period. In a way do you think the recession period created openings for your company? Now that the global economy seems to be turning a corner, what will be the strategy be for the foreseeable future?

The broadcast industry has always proved resilient at times when recession has affected other areas of commerce. If times get tough, people spend more time at home which inevitably means an increase in relaxations such as watching television. In terms of economics, broadcasters are always keen to maximise their operational and technical efficiency as advertising revenue drop.

The recession opened the door quicker to the high end broadcasters while the mid and low end broadcasters were not growing at the same fast rate as before the recession. This added to the fact that content delivery using supplementary methods actually increased sales for PlayBox Technology, who has shown consistent growth throughout the recession

The global economy is certainly turning a corner but that will not reduce demand for business efficiency as more channels will be launched. More channels means a wider spread of advertising revenue, so broadcasters today need really cost-effective solutions for playout. Many Tier 1 broadcasters are adopting channel-in-a-box technology for exactly this reason. Channel in a box allows broadcasters to address specific national or regional audiences from practically anywhere on the globe.

The rise of direct-to-home satellite broadcasting and terrestrial digital transmission allowed far more channels than was ever possible in the days of terrestrial analogue. It is easy to forget that just a few decades ago most homes had access to only a handful of television channels. The channel-in-a-box technology which we pioneered gives existing broadcasters the ability to expand their output without huge expense on addition electronic infrastructure. Being physically compact, it also makes highly efficient use of existing rack space rather than demanding the construction of an additional apparatus room.

In a recent interview with George Jarrett on systems integration you emphasised the importance of training and follow-up customer care. With so many systems installed worldwide, how difficult is this to put into practice?

Actually it is far simpler than it sounds. More systems installed means there is more chance of new channels finding engineering and operational staff with PlayBox Technology experience.

Every new installation is accompanied by thorough operational and technical training. Every product we create is designed to be really easy to operate by anyone capable of working a standard internet browser. Manufacturer training is free of charge at our Research & Development Centre or country offices. On-site training at the client’s premises is offered at extra charge. As PlayBox Technology products are fully integrated and relatively simple to use, training time is usually quite quick.

Customer Support is free for the life of the product with live web and email support. PlayBox Technology also has affordable customer support options ranging up to 24/7 monitoring and 24/7 telephone support for those that need better response times.

Every PlayBox Technology application has a unique tool called PlayBox Doctor which can produce reports that aid the fast detection and remedy of nearly all reported support issues. All servers, with the client’s permission, can be accessed remotely to investigate any issues in more detail and resolve them instantly. Very few issues reported to support need replacement hardware or a visit to site by a PlayBox Technology support engineer. Having an entire system from one manufacturer, customers are able to obtain all their support requirements from a single source rather than having to contact a string of different hardware and software suppliers.

PlayBox Technology products are also supported by our country offices and a global network of resellers, all of whom are fully trained by PlayBox Technology and in close two-way communication with the support teams located at our R&D Centre. Many clients want local support, especially where this is given in the local language.

It has been hard to keep up with the product announcements, upgrades and sales at PlayBox Technology this year; for example Multi Playout Manager (MPM), NewsRoomBox, ScheduleBox, AirBox, TitleBox, CaptureBox, EdgeBox, SocialMediaBox and ProductionAirBox. You are certainly not a company standing still. Are research and development central to your success?

Absolutely. The broadcast business is inherently creative, looking for new ways to increase their viewing figures in an obviously very competitive market. Our strategy is to ensure they have powerful, reliable and easy-to-use tools which integrate into a single fully coordinated system.

With sales running at 150 to 200 playout and branding systems per month, PlayBox Technology does not try to sell custom solutions. However we offer a wide range of applications so that clients can create solutions which precisely match their needs. Each solution can be added to when required, for example to expand from SD to HD, to provide multiple outputs, to add character generation and interactive graphics, or to scale up for extra channels.

Other than our stalwart AirBox playout server and TitleBox CG and interactive graphics servers, PlayBox Technology has over 30 different products / applications / workflow enhancers / workflow solutions / systemisation tools like CaptureBox, ScheduleBox, EdgeBox, ListBox, DataBox, NewsRoomBox, AdBox, SafeBox to name a few

Regarding the imminent release of SocialMediaBox, how indicative is it of social media's influence on the industry?

Social media give the 'silent majority' a direct voice and will become an increasing element of broadcast programming. The silent majority via social media has the ability to influence government policy rather than leaving this in the hands of a vocal minority.

SocialMediaBox enables broadcasters to incorporate viewers’ comments from multiple social network feeds quickly and efficiently into a single ready-for-broadcast stream and a great way for broadcasters to source content on topical stories, celebrities, news and so on. It is a tremendous tool to prove to viewers that broadcasters are listening to their audience

Which of the company's products do you feel sets you apart from the competition?

AirBox is our core product. It is the most widely used channel-in-a-box system in the world, low cost, reliable and easy to operate. It is ideal for people or organisations which have previously have only dreamt of operating their own television channel. AirBox can be completely “software centric” and operate on a standard IT server and hence can become cloud based if required

TimeShiftBox is unique in being the only time-delay server in the world which can handle real-time graphics overlay in standard or high definition.

EdgeBox is a fully automated remote playout system complete with file transfer agents, storage, playout, automation, graphics and remote monitoring. It allows a content owner or broadcaster to deploy a channel anywhere in the world for very low cost.

With the speed of advances and the integration of IT to the industry are there any dangers ahead for broadcasters?

Satellite is currently the logical way for broadcasters to reach a wide audience. However, given the current rate of global investment in optical telco networks, many television content owners and producers will be able to establish themselves as broadcasters streaming direct over the internet. Broadcasting over the internet will ultimately allow for lower cost to deliver content to viewers and broadcasters will expect lower cost playout equipment. PlayBox Technology, which has software centric playout solutions, views this as a massive opportunity rather than a danger. The broadcast business is set to become very big.

Published at Regional Film & Video Magazine, Volume 18, Issue 1, Edition 208: January 2014