Ensuring compatibility and versatility
While integration for channel-in-a-box solutions can be a challenge, it really is no more of an obstacle than is integration for traditional products. In either case, one significant challenge is ensuring file-format compatibility. With the proliferation of systems that generate files, broadcasters are finding that there can be very subtle incompatibilities in file formats. In some cases, files created on traditional systems or in traditional environments present compatibility issues when the broadcaster goes to play them out with a channel-in-a-box system.
Good integration is one important step in addressing the file-format compatibility problem. Another important step is the pre-validation of source material by the system prior to playout. Thus, bad files can be quarantined before they can go to air, and operators are alerted to any problems found so that they can be resolved well before material is required for transmission.
Smart interfaces with upstream media management systems and the support of a robust automation system bring greater sophistication to the channel-in-a-box system, giving it the versatility to address all the nuances and idiosyncrasies of premium-channel playout. The single-box solution does simplify the broadcast infrastructure, but broadcasting itself is as complex as it has ever been. For that reason, successful channel-in-a-box solutions focus on all that comprises a TV channel, fitting as much of this functionality into the software domain and putting it into the “box.”
The evolution of the IT platform has made it possible to fit an enormous amount of functionality in current channel-in-a-box systems, which, in turn, meets the demands of premium and prime-time channels. Indeed, it is now becoming a given that playout will be IT-based. The question of when has been asked and answered. And though some of the most popular channels on-air today already run on channel-in-a-box technology, viewers (and sometimes even competing networks) are none the wiser.
—Neil Maycock is chief architect at Snell.