WHYY creates on-demand service bureau for PBS stations

With the SeaChange QuickSilver Agility VOD Workstation, developed with Anystream, WHYY creates CableLabs-compliant content for on-demand delivery from existing programs.

Looking for new outlets and additional revenue streams for its local content, WHYY, a PBS member station serving the Philadelphia region, has come up with a novel idea. The station will aggregate content from other PBS stations in the region, acting as a service bureau to help them encode their local and national programs for on-demand distribution on the local cable TV provider, Comcast Digital Cable.

To streamline the production and distribution of PBS programs, WHYY is using an Agility VOD Workstation from SeaChange International. Preparing content for on-demand distribution had been a resource-intensive process, but the SeaChange QuickSilver Agility VOD Workstation makes the process easy.

Using the QuickSilver Agility VOD Workstation, the station will act as a clearinghouse to prep and deliver content to on-demand services so other PBS stations can begin building an on-demand audience without establishing additional production capabilities in-house. In addition, WHYY hopes to extend its community outreach to independent producers and other owners of unique programming.

The model appears to be a win-win for everyone involved: PBS stations get their content seen by more viewers and Comcast has been able to increase the volume of local and national programs available to Comcast's ON DEMAND services significantly. WHYY's goal is to offer other PBS stations and other content producers easy access to the millions who watch on-demand television. The station is targeting 120 local and national WHYY productions for on-demand availability.

William J. Marrazzo, WHYY's president and CEO, said on-demand television is quickly growing into an important venue for intriguing, educating and inspiring the public television viewer. The station's started doing this in 2004 and has built up a large library of content since then. His effort to create a service bureau for other PBS members is a direct response to member interest in increasing program availability, he said.

Adjusting to the system necessitated some rethinking of the production process. WHYY's efforts in on-demand distribution required developing a new set of production skills to repurpose programs developed for traditional broadcast. Inserting new “bumpers” and breaks with nonlinear editing systems, as well as adding metadata and encoding, the finished packages required turnaround time of up to several weeks. This limited the station's ability to quickly include a more comprehensive selection from its vast library.

The QuickSilver Agility VOD Workstation, developed in conjunction with Anystream, allows users to automatically produce standards-based CableLabs-compliant on-demand content without requiring additional nonlinear editing. The system automatically ingests files from storage or editing workstations, inserts metadata, branding messages, promos and underwriting credits and then processes it into CableLabs-compliant packages. Finished content can be sent over fiber optic links to PBS' on-demand partners for immediate access via on-demand subscriber navigation.

With the QuickSilver Agility VOD Workstation, WHYY is able to increase not just the quantity of programs available but also the quality. In addition to repurposed over-the-air shows, programmers are freed to include ancillary content that adds depth and context for understanding. This bonus material allows for a far greater degree of audience engagement.

For more information, visit www.anystream.com and www.schange.com.

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