Need for balance – how to match your TV channel business model with the playout technologies and services available? What about taking back the control?

02.12.2021

At the end of 2021, and for the foreseeable future, both national and international TV broadcasters face the challenges of how to find the balance between fast-changing external market forces, the business model chosen, and the technologies implemented to gain market success.

In the real world, there are always discrepancies between the fast-moving market environment, the business model available, creative needs, and the technologies & services available to balance it all. Levira has kept its eye on these changes and our customers’ needs and has reached conclusions which informed our next steps.

Levira’s base of operation is the Tallinn TV tower, where we are servicing some 50 channels and distribute them to the broadcasters’ desired markets and affiliates in Europe and beyond. Aside of other media businesses, play-out services and solutions are our focus. Levira’s customer base is quite wide with many well-known broadcasters and brands in the mix utilizing one of the largest independent playout facilities in the Nordics.

At Levira, we have adopted a very open approach towards servicing our customer. Regular communication with our clients and indeed future clients, is essential for gathering useful knowledge of the needs and wants that Levira needs to cater for. We are convinced that the broadcasting industry business challenges have gained even more momentum than technologies and technical services providers can keep up with today and in the predictable future. Hence, our approach is to again empower the broadcasters and allow for more flexibility to meet their rapidly evolving needs.

Broadcasters still need and will need channel origination with higher flexibility – and cost-effectiveness – compared to the options available today.

Currently broadcasters can choose the playout tech vendor most suitable to their needs, buy the playout system, and start operating it. This model requires high CAPEX followed with staff & other operational expenses. To avoid high CAPEX, there is the opportunity to opt for a full playout service model, defining the functionalities and budgets required fora fixed period into the future. The choice has been rather binary.

There is the alternative to choose a public cloud play-out model, rely on the functionalities available today and hope that the cloud consumption budget will not surprise you due to hidden costs while you are running with it.

Step by step this has led us to move towards the Playout Platform as a Service (PpaaS) business model, tailored to meet individual customer needs. You may need a healthy balance between functionalities, flexibility, sustainability, CAPEX and OPEX in a future-proof manner. This is exactly the point where Levira would like to start the discussion with you!

The process starts with understanding the customer’s workflows and needs. We´d like to get insight into your requirements to implement and configure a Levira PpaaS solution tailored to your individual business needs. We can add extra flexibility for you and combine the Levira PpaaS solution with Levira managed playout services simultaneously. This would be valid in the case of the broadcaster wanting to employ its own staff for business hours operations and outsource the remaining playout hours to Levira.

Levira can provide the playout platform which corresponds to your business needs today and in the foreseeable future. In addition, Levira can add extra functionalities and services layers based on future-proof standards.

Onwards to a more practical approach

Levira has conducted a playout proof of concept system using a SMPTE ST2110 playout network. The platform consisted of equipment required for setting up fully functional channel chains. The system comprised playout automation, video servers, nearline storage, 2D/3D graphics engines, signal gateways, uncompressed AV IP stream analyzers, software based multiviewer, distribution encoders, compliance recording and SDN orchestration.

Initial testing was divided into three categories and was carried out on the functional domain. Our secondary objective was to verify the maturity of the SMPTE ST2110 standard and the stability of the platform, followed by the operational model testing. Proof of concept continued with functionality testing. While Levira was concentrating on the stability and interoperability aspects of the SMPTE ST2110 based play-out platform, our partner, the broadcaster, concentrated on the functional requirements and channel ops. The system was benchmarked against 300+ test scenarios. What makes the test remarkable was that the playout operator was controlling the platform a few thousand kilometers away.

The remote playout operator was able to control the playout via automation GUI and see the multiviewer mosaic screens, showing the system status and stream outputs of the playout, with unnoticeable delay, low-latency program output signals. The testing was positively concluded. Levira continued the collaboration project by selecting the best playout vendor for the live platform build during the coming years.

The base need for the whole platform resides in the latency. End to end signal chain latency is minimal due to low latency compression technologies and uncompressed signal-chains used, making it hardly noticeable for the channel operator.

The second obstacle was to provide the platform in the most flexible manner possible. Initial ideas went towards the public cloud immediately but costing structures and technical challenges seem not to favor this approach coupled with the idea that private cloud solutions seem best suited for 24/7 live dynamic channels. Hence a more cost-friendly (for Levira AND the customer) private cloud approach was selected, coupled with public cloud if needed. Public cloud is a good tool for pop-up or event-based channels that gain something from the cloud logic… The speed of set up and pay as you go.

In terms of the private cloud set up – Levira can utilize COTS hardware and hence meets the flexibility and efficiency requirements triggered by the software driven system architecture.

Take back control

Today, Levira PpaaS is available as a true Playout Platform as a Service, where Levira handles the platform, i.e., the whole technology and upgrades, and the broadcaster is free to operate the content/channels on the platform. Hence, no technological pains, no upgrade needs, no research costs – the broadcaster is free to focus on their main task – delivering the best content to their viewers.

Therefore, do not hesitate to contact us for advice, expertise or just information you may need; take advantage of our real-world experience to help you take back control and deliver great content efficiently and cost-effectively.