TCI’s Global Channel Expansion

Travel Channel International’s (TCI) appeal is universal and its customers are global. This leads to complex playout needs that have to be dynamic, flexible, and economic, and yet deliver a high quality reliable feed.

PlayBox Technology’s EdgeBox is a remote playout solution that fit into our operation and was robust and reliable enough to handle our channel. We had an existing schedule-driven tapeless workflow at the London HQ that was controlled by our BMS, Zeus. EdgeBox was easily integrated into this ecosystem, so we had no reason to change our transcoding or scheduling set-up and we could use the conventions we already had in place.

At the host NOC, the system was easy to install. It does not take up too much space (30 RU) and it is not onerous for the NOC to provide first-line support. As far as the host NOC is concerned the handover was a single SDI cable.

Our main motive for using EdgeBox was to provide customisation of our channel content to deliver augmented feeds for specific territories. These feeds could then slot into our current set-up and easily be hosted at NOCs around the world.

To be commercially viable, these opportunities in the marketplace need to be acted on both very quickly and with a sensible business plan. Territories such as Germany have markets that are tough to enter for the first time. They require a high level of customisation to be acceptable and, whatever method we chose, had to be indistinguishable from more traditional contribution methods in terms of reliability and quality.

For territories in SE Asia and our New Zealand feed, sheer distance from London represented a significant problem, which EdgeBox solved. Avoiding the multiple satellite hops or expensive fibre was a distinct advantage. It reduced the points of failure that can be associated with these traditional methods.

Our EdgeBoxes have proved to be a tried-and-tested way of creating new customised feeds, and have become a very useful strategic option in our forward planning. This is a good thing: the economics of entering new territories can sometimes take a while to bear fruit. We wanted to balance the need for a reliable service without making the operation more costly than the business required.

Travel Channel has all the familiar technical demands of a global channel. This means that MultiAudio, cue messaging, and subtitling were key requirements of the system.

MultiAudio is native in both SD and HD, and the subtitling and opt technology was integrated with third-party systems. With our Asia HD feed, for example, we integrated with Screen’s Polistream to service both the subtitling and opt outs. This has proved to be a great partnership.

Fortunately, EdgeBox is relatively compact, very operable over IP, and does not have proprietary video formats. It is also a schedule-driven system, which is a key factor for us. EdgeBox has evolved over the two years that we have been using it. At IBC 2011, Playbox unveiled a host of very welcome developments. These included partnerships with File Catalyst to create a much better file delivery option to the EdgeBoxes; and with Ideas Unlimited to have a much-enhanced compliance, monitoring and reporting module.

Both these areas did need improvement. There is also room for more development with automating missing items lists, as-run comparisons, and more detailed operational logs and reporting. Advance missing items or schedule under-run alerts would be really useful. The newly launched QCBox is also something we are testing at present. This device could be a big advantage, especially if it offers a way of analysing file sizes and durations against known values.

The bottom line: without EdgeBox, our new channels would have been fully-managed, third-party supplied, playout, uplink and satellite distribution systems, as this was the only other way to launch these feeds. This would not have been a viable consideration for the business: it was the EdgeBox that made these new channels commercially possible.

Without doubt, the EdgeBox solution represents a viable way of launching these kinds of feeds with significantly lower costs compared to those of the traditional methods –and we had the advantage of delivering customised feeds to new territories. It meant we could hit the right balance between up-front costs and ROI and still have feeds that should be no different in quality or reliability for our customers. EdgeBox gives us the flexibility to relocate, upgrade, innovate, customise and have a much sharper response to the commercial realities that make Travel Channel a success.

Matt Westrup is the Head of Operations at the Londonbased Travel Channel International.Contacts