The broadcast industry is currently witnessing an unparalleled influx of digital content, compelling new and more effective approaches to meet the demand. The nature of broadcasting is changing dramatically. What was once a single, common output to all, today content owners are expected to deliver in a number of formats and business models to a large number of viewing devices. Playout has evolved from a simple one-channel operation into a complex, multichannel/multiplatform ecosystem.

Playout automation tools deliver ingest, editing, and content management while acting as a video server, master controller, graphics device, and logo inserter. Advancements in playout techniques have shifted the focus of broadcasters from conventional ways of playout to latest solutions that are cost-effective and do not involve huge manpower, infrastructure, and complex integration of different devices. This has further helped broadcasters in error handling, improving quality of results, simplifying processes, and eliminating redundancy.

Integrated playout. Broadcasters, content providers, and multi-service operators are looking to standard IT solutions to reduce the cost and complexity of launching new channels and upgrading existing services. The goal is to elevate RoI by reducing the amount of specialized hardware that needs to be purchased and saving OpEx through reduced headcount and more efficient workflows. To get there, media professionals are increasingly turning to software-based integrated channel playout solutions that unite in a single system what used to be multiple, individual hardware components in the playout chain. One of the primary goals of integrated playout is to reduce the complexity inherent to deploying a multitude of boxes from various vendors. This solution provides broadcasters and content programmers, a cost-effective channel launch. The technology enables a path toward a more integrated solution without sacrificing the flexibility or quality.

Changing Business Models

Business models are evolving and media companies are now actively adopting a variety of next-generation architectures to accommodate shifting video consumption practices, generate new revenue, and improve competitive positioning. The transition from a technology foundation based on single-function, dedicated hardware to a software-defined environment with no physical boundaries and new levels of scalability, flexibility, and agility requires media companies to have access to systems and processes designed to fully exploit the capabilities of both traditional and virtualized playout environments.

Broadcasters from around the world are seeking affordable playout solutions that they can integrate easily into their existing workflows. They are willing to invest on technology that will seemingly reduce the cost of playout systems and decipher complexities while enhancing reliability and performance in critical operations.

While technology transitions such as the move toward IP-enabled, virtualized, and cloud-based operations present new opportunities for content playout, each transition comes with its own challenges, rate of adoption, and revenue-expansion prospects.

Indian Market

The Indian market for playout automation solutions in 2015-16 is estimated at Rs.1000 crore.

Playout automation solutions from Grass Valley, are designed to enhance efficiency and drive cost savings. For fully integrated operations, iTX is responsible for more than 20 million hours of television transmitted in the last year..

Imagine Communications provides highly scalable, software-based playout solutions that speed channel deployment time and easily upgrade with no costly hardware replacement - ensuring today's investment fits an operation's requirements well into the future. The company offers integrated playout solution that accelerates channel deployment more quickly than traditional installations with a flexible, software-based architecture that enables broadcasters to pay for only what they need and affordably add features as the business evolves. Combining industry-leading playout, automation, master control, and graphics, their software-based platform is adaptable to any operational model - premises-based, hybrid SDI/IP, and virtualized/cloud.

Harmonic Inc.'s video servers, shared storage, and automation solutions provide professional media organizations with open platforms optimized for production, transformation, and distribution of digital media. Polaris Advance provides optimized control of Spectrum ChannelPort and associated third-party devices within IT and hybrid broadcast infrastructures. Based on a 64-bit client-server architecture, the system enables control of up to four ChannelPort channels from a single operator position, with clear visibility of operations for efficient channel management, along with direct desktop view of playout and ingest monitoring. Recently, the company has broadened its VOS software-based media processing portfolio based on the successful integration of several Thomson Video Networks' technologies. Featuring the Harmonic PURE Compression Engine, VOS software unifies the media processing chain, from ingest to playout, graphics, branding, compression, packaging, and delivery, for broadcast and multiscreen applications. VOS media processing enables pay-TV operators and broadcasters to simplify workflows, maximize flexibility, and gain unprecedented operational efficiency while delivering pristine video quality on every screen.

ENCO Systems is the premier global provider of playout and automation solutions. DAD is the most flexible, powerful, and reliable radio automation system. DADtv is the most advanced instant audio playout and management system for live and production television.

HotShot2 features a full-screen interface, so there is no windowing or dialog boxes to deal with. The HotShot control surface is pre-labeled with color-coded letters making it easy to correlate the button with the audio broadcasters' want.

MOM is a complete automated playout system that brings automatic ingest, media asset management, graphics, and playout automation together in one platform. enCaption3R3 is the latest-generation real-time automated captioning system.

PlayBox Technology offers channel-in-a-box, which is a turnkey playout server solution, for broadcasting a single TV channel and available in SD or HD. It integrates all the elements needed to keep a channel on-air by combining scheduling, ingest, playout, CG, and interactive graphics within one box. The output can be SDI or IP streaming and suitable for applications including broadcast TV, Internet TV, and cable TV. In 2015-16, the company playout serves various TV channels including National Voice, Ind 24, Bhopal, and Paras TV, Faridabad, valued at Rs 5 crore.

Global Market

The global playout automation and channel-in-a-box (integrated playout) market is expected to reach 
USD 17.46 billion by 2020, growing at a CAGR of 
16.0 percent from 2015 to 2020. Increased need for improved channel presentation, ease of operations, reduced cost of ownership, and fierce entry of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in the broadcasting industry are factors driving growth. The concept of playout automation and channel-in-a-box is gaining immense popularity, which is mainly driven by their extended applications in radio and television. Advancements in playout solutions, high level of customization, and easy integration with existing infrastructure have propelled the overall demand for playout automation and channel-in-a-box systems.

Cloud-Based Playout

In today's fast-evolving television marketplace, broadcasters need to respond quickly to new commercial opportunities. The industry is demanding faster channel startup, higher-quality display standards, and fully scalable metadata-based content management. Cloud-enabled automation facilitates the integration of operations across all segments of workflow. Playout in the cloud presents an entirely new range of opportunities for media companies to evolve their operations, transform, and transport content free of geographic or other historical channel boundaries, extend and expand their brands, and profoundly improve and enhance the nature of their relationships with other content providers and distributors, affiliates, and video consumers.

The origination and playout of content through a 
cloud-management infrastructure is proving to be extremely beneficial for broadcasters. By hosting broadcast workflow capabilities on the cloud, including MAM, quality control, editing and management, and automation and scheduling, broadcasters can speed up operations, increase flexibility, and lower costs. Selecting a playout solution that supports a phased approach to next-generation technology allows broadcasters to sustain current operations, protect their investment, and make a seamless transition at a pace that works best for their business.

Joe Khodeir, Senior Vice President Asia Pacific, Imagine Communications
Industry Speak
Virtualized Playout

The move to software-defined architectures and IP connectivity will bring new levels of agility and versatility to traditional broadcast playout operations. Increasing processing power means that more and more functionality can be implemented entirely in software running on standard computer platforms.

A software-defined architecture brings many benefits, including the ability to define workflows in terms of operational and commercial requirements, rather than being constrained by fixed-functionality hardware. Individual processes running as virtual machines within a larger processing architecture can be spooled up as needed, and then just as quickly pulled down - releasing the resources as soon as the workflow is complete.

Once these processes are fully virtualized, they can be operated as part of the data center of the broadcast or media company, or moved to a public cloud environment where content and functionality can be located anywhere in the world. Media companies may also adopt a hybrid strategy, distributing resources across on-premises appliances, a data center, and the cloud, while retaining consistency across the entire operation.

Channel playout is an excellent example of a major workflow that can be optimized through conversion to a virtualized, software-defined environment. While some processes are consistent - server playout and live encoding and packaging, for example - other processes are required only at certain times. Graphics and DVE moves at program junctions are good examples of occasional operations, calling for additional cloud resources for short periods of time.

Where some manufacturers have taken a playout system built for specialized hardware and simply encased it in an IP wrapper in order to run in a virtualized environment, Imagine Communications designed Versio specifically for virtual, geo-dispersed environments. As a cloud-native platform, Versio is able to fully exploit all of the benefits and advantages of virtualization. This architecture utilizes cloud resources incredibly efficiently, providing operators with flexibility and agility to cost-effectively explore new monetization opportunities.

A fully virtualized Versio also strengthens the management of channel redundancy, providing media companies with powerful options for protecting channel playout across multiple sites and data centers, including cloud resources. Groups of Versio instances can be organized into pools and hierarchies to help ensure high-availability operations and streamline disaster recovery. Versio is designed to enable operators to evolve playout operations at a reasonable pace, and in lockstep with current and future business objectives.

Joe Khodeir
Senior Vice President Asia Pacific,
Imagine Communications

Scott Rose, Senior Director of Product Management-Digital Media, Grass Valley
Industry Speak
Improving Efficiency with Automated Playout

Playout automation solutions from Grass Valley are designed to enhance efficiency and drive cost savings. iTX - the product that defined integrated playout as the powerful combination of server, full automation, and graphics - is meeting the demands of leading operations around the world.

For fully integrated operations, iTX is one of the world's most advanced playout solutions for broadcast television, responsible for more than 20 million hours of television transmitted in the last year. It is designed to automate routine asset management tasks, such as media import from Pitch Blue, Pathfire, and other delivery systems, through segmenting and renaming according to individual business rules. This helps to simplify operations and allows operators to focus on more productive efforts, managing more channels, or controlling more live content.

Version 2.9 of iTX includes IP I/O capability based on compressed IP inputs and outputs for a phased transition, with some channels played out via IP outputs and some played out by SDI. It incorporates Softel technology to provide a full-featured subtitling/captioning system that easily works with caption files from other major vendors. It also offers real-time preview and management of subtitle assets at the operator's desktop, reducing errors and enabling broadcasters to reach wider audiences more efficiently.

The broadcast market is undergoing a significant transition, and regardless of whether broadcasters are ready to make the move to IP or 4K now, they want to know whether the investments they are making today are the right ones to maximize automation and prepare them for the future. Playout solutions from Grass Valley are well suited to any size operation and provide broadcasters with flexibility to grow and change as the market evolves.

Scott Rose
Senior Director of Product Management-Digital Media,
Grass Valley