FOX’s LIVEnow OTT streaming news service has recently expanded its use of TVU Producer to serve as the backbone of its 24/7 operations. Initially deployed as a backup switcher for routing IP feeds to the network’s physical switcher, FOX soon discovered that TVU’s cloud-based solution for multicamera streaming could serve as the main conduit for distributing all of its news feeds.
With content coming from multiple sources—SDI, local FOX stations, pool feeds, and FOX News Edge—feeds needed to be routed quickly and easily. LiveNOWFOX has a unique setup where a single anchor presents the program, creates the rundown, switches the program, and manages the graphics. There’s a mix of live content and video from the playlist.
Flexibility is Key
In this environment, TVU Producer has quickly gone from providing basic graphic overlay and signal routing to supporting multiple IP inputs from many sources, delivery to multiple social media and CDN platforms, and closed caption support.
Discovering this expanded use of TVU’s platform came about during the pandemic, according to Paul Ruppel, digital product manager for LIVEnowFOX, who led the creation of the network’s coronavirusnow.com website, designed to report the latest news and verify the accuracy of information about the virus.
“A lot of this came about, as we were setting up coronavirusnow.com, which was a website to help people get verified accurate information from a variety of sources aggregated from FOX stations and other sources,” he said. Coronavirusnow.com has since evolved into the network’s LIVEnowFOX streaming service.
The first streams consisted of two hours of content from KSAZ, News10 in Phoenix, as well as from KTVU, Fox’s San Francisco affiliate. With plans to expand hours and localities providing news coverage on the pandemic beyond these two cities, the demands for flexible routing and switching on the fly prompted the network to reach out to TVU.
“We wanted something that was not locked into one location, especially in a pandemic, when you never know if you’d have to get out of the building somewhere,” he said.
But Ruppel soon realized that the TVU Producer’s cloud-based routing capabilities could do much more.
“Having a cloud switcher was our first instinct, but they've really grown to become so much more than that for us,” he said. “[TVU Producer] is kind of the ‘hub’ of everything that we're doing right now with LIVEnowFOX.
“We have variety and video sources, feeding into GPU, it all goes into the TV Producer, and then they are also the output for a lot of our downstream partners including our websites and apps, and the splash page that we have up right now for LIVEnowFOX.com,” he added. “TVU really sits in the middle of all that, and the infrastructure capabilities that they have to bring in video, do some switching in the cloud, and be able to go from one video source to another, lay in picture and picture. If you need to switch them, you can also layer in graphics on top of the video. You can change how the audio follows the video. There are a lot of different features.”
Born from Experimentation
Prior to launching its live streaming pandemic news coverage, FOX’s Phoenix station had been experimenting with day-long live news coverage starting about seven years ago and testing the concept of aggregating content from FOX’s affiliates from around the country into one online streaming source. Soon FOX’s other local stations joined in and when the pandemic hit, the network saw what was at one time considered “an experiment” morph into coronavirusnow.com.
Ruppel said that time was of the essence when setting up the website because of the fast pace of changing news and information surrounding the pandemic. Accessing and distributing live feeds from a multiple array of sources can become complex very quickly so TVU Producer quickly became the single point of contact to distribute these feeds, he said.
The success of this project prompted Ruppel to expand its use of TVU Producer to LIVEnow full time which currently has more than 1.5 million subscribers on YouTube.
“When we saw the combined power of all the stations being able to contribute, whether it’s live interviews with people in their own markets, we saw the power of that in coronavirusnow.com, we said, ‘hey the newsnow we’ve been doing in Phoenix, that’s a product that we can really take to a national audience.’”
Tom has covered the broadcast technology market for the past 25 years, including three years handling member communications for the National Association of Broadcasters followed by a year as editor of Video Technology News and DTV Business executive newsletters for Phillips Publishing. In 1999 he launched digitalbroadcasting.com for internet B2B portal Verticalnet. He is also a charter member of the CTA's Academy of Digital TV Pioneers. Since 2001, he has been editor-in-chief of TV Technology (www.tvtechnology.com), the leading source of news and information on broadcast and related media technology and is a frequent contributor and moderator to the brand’s Tech Leadership events.
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