Croation newspaper group airs 24-hour news with Oasys

As TV stations get into online delivery, newspapers are also looking at other formats for distribution. A strong web presence is obvious, but many newspaper publishers are also using television. The challenge for many media groups is setting up a television news organization without costs running out of control. Careful workflow design and equipment choices are key to setting up a profitable operation.

Austrian media group Styria Medien set up 24sata ("24 hours") as a daily newspaper for Croatia in 2004. To strengthen its cross-media presence, it decided to offer a 24-hour news service, 24sata TV, in addition to its print, web and mobile offerings. Leveraging its network of reporters across Croatia, the network, based in the capital Zagreb, provides Croatia’s only continuous new channel. It started as a web channel, but it soon became apparent that web viewers have very different demands from their TV counterparts. Web viewers expect short clips, and they do not view for as long.

24sata was approached by T-Com Croatia (part owned by Deutsche Telekom) to be carried on its IPTV network, which meant the station could run as a true TV channel rather than web TV. The resulting IPTV network channel was rolled out in May 2009.

The station runs on a modest budget, with a total of just 30 people providing the round-the-clock operation. To equip the station, the group turned to local systems integrator Ro.Ba.Go. also based in Zagreb. The automation, scheduling and graphics software system is from Oasys. The Player module is used for automated playout and Oasys’ scheduling and graphics capabilities integrate with the existing CMS used in 24sata’s newsroom for web and mobile publishing.

The 24sataTV channel broadcasts from Ro.Ba.Go’s nearby playout facility in Zagreb. Content is created at the 24sata facility but is aired remotely from the Ro.Bo.Go facility. All updates, such as content, media files and playlists, are done over the Internet. In addition, 24sata has an Oasys Player system in the studio that plays content to air during live news bulletins.

The system is HD, but current broadcasts are SD. The CMS was modified to enable journalists to automatically publish and update content both on the Internet and on the TV channel.

The station adopted the wheel approach for news, with a one-hour cycle, but with a twist. It uses a flexible scheduling approach, which does not impose any strict template for story timings. The reporting team creates around 50 stories — news clips — per day. The wheel has 10-minute newscasts every hour, with full news programs at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.

As stories break, the playout schedule is updated, usually every 20 minutes, by adding a new group of clips in a rundown with breaking stories appended. As journalists and editors finish cutting stories, the content is automatically migrated to playout servers, and XML data exchange updates the CMS and the next group schedule for playout.

Stories are of varying lengths, and there are varying numbers of stories in the on-air group. This means the top of the hour live newscast must break in and halt the group playout just as one clip ends. This is synchronized with the playout system via a countdown clock — a live program feed cannot be used because of encoding latencies.

News is categorized into genres, sport, entertainment, politics, etc., but one clip can be used in more than one category. Oasys developed a system of graphics templates that allows a different branded template to be used for each genre. The branding process is handled automatically using metadata embedded in each clip. This removes the need for intervention by graphics staff in creating the flexible look of the news broadcasts.

Oasys and Ro.Ba.Go have designed a flexible news playout system that neatly dovetails with the newspaper group’s existing CMS, and, through clever use of automation, handles video publishing with minimal operator involvement.