– without adding extra playout, encoder and storage capacity
Many broadcasters are used to producing regional versions of their main channels, where news and weather (for example) vary by broadcast locality. The basic model is well established. Typically, national channels destined for localization have segments defined where the regional content is “spliced in”, depending on the local area. Within Sweden for example, viewers who are based in Stockholm can watch a tailored version of a national channel that shows more content related to their city compared to viewers watching elsewhere. And as TV evolves, viewers who have grown used to this level of regionalization on certain channels will expect this to be replicated across all platforms and on all screens.
The ‘splicing’ has typically taken place in central broadcast facilities. The issue is that increasing the number of regional variations requires greater investment in production, encoding, storage resources and, depending on the distribution channel, broadcast spectrum.
Outside of public service broadcasting obligations, this poses something of a challenge, as the ‘value’ of a regional channel is inherently less (in terms of advertising reach) than a national channel. Yet, as broadcasting and TV distribution moves increasingly online, the possible applications for channel variations start to multiply. Regional weather and news, along with interest-based, content-based and advertising variations, are all possible, but creating them by investing in the traditional broadcast playout facility won’t pay back.
Each of these channels taken in isolation occupies a relatively small niche, but in aggregate all regional channels together offer significant upside in reach. So, is there a way to produce regionalized channels in a way which is cost effective?
Edgeware’s online TV origination system includes the Virtual Channel Creation solution, which has been conceived and developed to make the universe of customized channels available to broadcasters and content owners at realistic cost levels per channel.
Virtual Channel Creation is built on content stitching technology, which enables the stitching of channels in the segmented content domain prior to packaging into ABR formats for internet delivery. Way beyond a simple playlist function, Virtual Channel Creation results in the creation of a new dynamic manifest with each stitched piece of content indistinguishable from the others. With no change to the broadcast playout capacity, Virtual Channel Creation enables broadcasters or content owners to stitch together content from different sources to create new ‘virtual’ channels.
For content that varies by region – such as regional news or weather channels, or market-specific advertisements typically sharing national programming – the solution cuts costs by reducing playout, contribution, encoder and storage capacity needs. And, because of the API-driven nature of the Virtual Channel Creation solution, the option of creating new channels becomes computational rather than manual – opening up a new universe of possibilities.
In the broadcast model, regional channels take up a full 24×7 encoding resource and one full channel in the broadcast spectrum on the EPG, meaning the national content is encoded and stored multiple times. This storage obligation multiplies if the offer includes live-to-VOD / catchup or time-shift applications.
With Edgeware Virtual Channel Creation, national content only needs to be encoded and stored once. Regional content can then be stitched into the national channel in the IP playout from the origin to create each full regional channel. As a result, encoder needs are reduced. And if catch-up (Live to VoD) is required, the benefits multiply, as each unique piece of content is stored separately, and the channel is re-created on demand in the outgoing packaging process.
If this suits the application, lower bitrate variants of the regional content that is stitched in can be enforced at channel creation time. This reduces the encoder and storage capacity needs even further, while not noticeably impacting the quality for the viewer.
Use cases demonstrate a 95% encoder capacity saving for national channels and an 89% encoder saving for regional channels when using the option to use a lower bitrate variant for the regional channels.
Creating theme-based channels around live events and pay-per-view is a way to increase viewing time and relevance for the end viewer. This is yet another use case for the Virtual Channel Creation solution and opens up unlimited possibilities for new innovative programming. Examples can include the concept of ‘fan-channels’, creating channels that address certain demographics or regions during big online music and/or sports events. The Virtual Channel Creation solution provides an easier and more cost-efficient approach to developing new revenue-generating TV services.
In addition, the Virtual Channel Creation technology sits before the final packaging step, which makes it possible to package virtual channels into all adaptive bitrate formats including Microsoft Smooth Streaming (MSS). Despite declining as a format at a global level, Smooth Streaming remains an important format in many markets and the Edgeware solution is unique in its ability to insert regionalized ads for Smooth devices.
The content stitching technology used in Virtual Channel Creation can also be used to efficiently manage restrictions in content distribution rights. Content distribution rights can include restrictions based on geographic region or TV delivery platform. By inserting replacement segments, programs or providing a blackout solution, the distribution rights can be fulfilled. The Edgeware solution supports this even for time-shifted content.
Virtual Channel Creation gives viewers an enhanced and more bespoke online TV experience with programming that is tailored to their home region or demographics. This makes the content more relevant and opens up the option of stitching content together in new and innovative TV service offerings, thereby increasing the value of broadcasters’ content.
Read more about Virtual Channel Creation through:
Andy Hooper, VP, Commercial Lead – Origin Products
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