BXF promises reduced costs, increased revenues

Last week, in part one of a three-part feature, Chris Lennon of Harris explained the business advantages that the Broadcast eXchange Format (BXF) can deliver, both to save costs and to create revenue. This week in part two, Lennon addresses practical applications and results. This article was originally delivered as a paper at NAB2008.

How does this save me money?

Broadcasting is a business, and technology is not implemented for its own sake. There must be a compelling business case to justify the introduction of new technology into a facility.

Everyone’s looking for ways to reduce expenses, while streamlining operations. BXF has much to offer in this area.

No more Post-it notes

Those not involved in traffic and master control operations are often shocked to find out how day-of-air changes to the broadcast schedule are accomplished today. In most cases, a traffic or operations person will handwrite those changes onto a paper log, or simply slap a Post-it note onto the appropriate location on the log. The master control operator will then have to take this information and manually enter it into the automation system. This means that data was entered three times — once into the traffic system, once onto the Post-it note or log and once into the automation system. Not only does this mean that three times the effort was expended, but there is three times the chance for the introduction of errors.

When you’re dealing with spots valued at thousands, or in some cases millions, of dollars per 30 seconds, anything that can eliminate duplicate (or in this case, triplicate) data entry can have a serious impact on your bottom line.

Dealing with missing content

Just because content (be it commercial or program content) is supposed to be in-house well in advance of broadcast doesn’t mean it is. Often, when the playlist is loaded into the automation system, warnings pop up that some content that must be played in the coming hours cannot be found.

Prior to BXF, missing content often meant manual procedures. Phone calls, e-mails and frantic last-minute scrambling was often needed to get that missing content onto a playout server. Sometimes this worked, and the content arrived and was played. Sometimes, all this manual effort was for naught, and commercials were missed (resulting in lost revenue).

BXF’s ability to allow systems to send content metadata, as well as content movement instructions, between systems enables the automation of a station’s missing content procedures, reducing manual effort and increasing the likelihood that the content will be found and made available for playout on time.

Simple reconciliation

A largely unintended consequence of the BXF effort was something that was largely beneficial to the accounting/finance departments at broadcast operations.

The process of reconciling the as-run log with the broadcast schedule has long been a painful and time-consuming one for broadcasters everywhere. This was largely due to the period of time during which the traffic/billing system and the automation system didn’t communicate. When changes in one are made and are not made in the other, it is the job of accounting/finance to sort out the resulting mess and “reconcile” the two.

If the traffic and automation views actually matched, reconciliation would be a breeze. This is where BXF helps. That period of disconnect between the two systems, when their views of the schedule diverge, is eliminated. Changes to the schedule can be made in traffic then sent down to automation. Automation airs the events, which can then be automatically matched up with the original events scheduled by traffic.

Suddenly, reconciliation becomes much easier. The only events that really need to be reconciled are those which were added or deleted by automation without involvement or notification of traffic. This may be limited to events that went wrong in the middle of the night or on the weekend.

In truth, even those cases can be handled by BXF, which allows for event updates to be sent back to traffic by automation when edits must be made in the automation system. Another approach is to require that all playlist edits be made in the traffic system. While both of these are technically possible using BXF, it may be some time before we see either used commonly in the field.

More hands-off master control

Many broadcasters ask, does BXF mean the end of the master control operator? The answer is not so clear.

BXF certainly means reduced manual effort required on the part of the master control operator. If traffic was made a 24/7 operation, the job of maintaining the automation playlist could, theoretically, be moved out of master control and into traffic. However, the typical operator does more than simply monitor and maintain the playlist.

There is also the reality that in most cases, traffic will continue to be an eight- to 12-hour daily operation for the foreseeable future. In those cases, traffic can assume responsibility for maintenance of the automation playlist for up to half the day, but arrangements need to be made for the other half.

So, could BXF eliminate the need for a master control operator maintaining the automation playlist? Yes. Will this be an immediate impact of BXF? In many cases, it will likely be an evolutionary thing.

Part three next week will look at how BXF can generate extra revenue.

For more information, visit www.harris.com.