Broadcast group uses Versio for cloud-native, microservices-based playout

HUNT VALLEY, MD.—Sinclair Broadcast Group (SBG) is one of the largest and most diversified broadcasting groups in the nation. In 2017, we launched KidsClick, a national, animated programming block for kids available across both broadcast and digital platforms.

KidsClick

With plans to roll out KidsClick to many of our nearly 200 affiliates nationwide, we were looking for a scalable playout foundation that would allow local stations to customize the content and target their advertising. We also needed a solution that would make economic sense for a service that runs only three hours a day.

FULLY VIRTUALIZED APPROACH

It sounded to us like a classic case for the cloud. We worked with Imagine Communications to develop a platform that would provide the scalability, flexibility and geo-dispersion we needed by putting the resources in the public cloud.

Imagine delivered a fully virtualized approach to playout and content delivery. The solution enabled us to achieve cost efficiencies and speed to market that we could not have met using a traditional, on prem playout architecture. We believe this is one of the most advanced commercial deployments of cloud-based playout to date, as it breaks new ground in terms of scalability, flexibility and operational efficiency.

The core of the system uses Imagine’s Versio Platform, a software-only, cloudnative, microservices-based playout solution. An instance of Versio Platform, running a unique playlist, content and ad load, is assigned to each affiliate. Stations can customize their programming and target advertising to their market and time zone. Every time another station joins KidsClick, we simply spool up another instance.

Most importantly, because the solution is running in the public cloud, processor and server resources are automatically allocated when needed, then released when the task is complete.

Imagine’s SelenioFlex File file-based processing solution—also running in the public cloud—provides any required transcoding, format conversion, bitrate adjustments and audio processing. Both Versio Platform and SelenioFlex File are built on Imagine’s Zenium microservices architecture, which means that we can incorporate new capabilities and features as our business demands them, simply by adding new software services.

We manage KidsClick from our Las Vegas NOC. Here, the only processing we need is monitoring and quality assurance. This is provided by another Zenium-powered product, the EPIC MV multiviewer. Again, this is ready for future upgrades when we need them as the installation is UHD ready.

Enterprise-grade connectivity is of course critical to a cloud-based delivery system. For our KidsClick service, technology from LTN Global Communications provides managed and secure paths from the cloud to our SBG affiliates.

The business benefits of this solution for SBG are clear. Running this service in the cloud gives us near limitless scalability and resource elasticity. We can provision a new service virtually instantly, by simply commanding another instance of Versio Platform. It means we can work toward customized content and commercial payload for each affiliate. This gives them the chance to increase customer loyalty and generate new revenue through richer ad targeting. All without the need to plan investments in time and capital to build hardware playout chains.

Finally, KidsClick is giving us experience and confidence in software-defined, virtualized mission-critical applications that we can carry forward into more cloud deployments in the future.

As the CTO for Sinclair Broadcast Group, Del Parks is responsible for the oversight and coordination of all Sinclair technology efforts and operational deployments. He can be reached at dparks@sbgtv.com.

For more information, visit www.imaginecommunications.com or call 866-446-2446.