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NAB 2014: Notes from the Show Floor - Playout from the cloud

Playout from the cloud

It’s no newsflash that TV Everywhere and the cloud top the most-talked-about list at this year’s NAB Show. It’s as though the IP message heralded for the last several years has been absorbed and accepted. The broadcasters I’ve spoken to on the show floor over the last few days are already on-board with IP – they’re simply waiting for the equipment vendors to catch up.

At the Imagine Communications booth, our biggest crowd-draw (besides the jugglers, but that’s another story…) has been our TV Everywhere area.  We’ve had a constant stream of delegates from national broadcasters, local networks and companies from around the world checking out our playout from the cloud demo. Their feedback has been fascinating.

Our basic premise is simple: broadcast solutions that run on software-centric IP open up huge benefits in terms of business agility and cost savings. In our playout from the cloud demo, we show that a hybrid of physical, virtual, owned and leased infrastructure provides the kind of flexibility and scalability needed to evolve with today’s changing business needs. Operations can work on any platform, with the private or public cloud in the mix. IP makes this possible.

Taking a little deeper dive, our NAB demo shows our Versio integrated playout solution hosted in Amazon’s Cloud, originating network programming that is unicast to our NAB cloud. Network programming from the cloud is regionalized within that private cloud with local content, including live uncompressed IP sources. The resulting regional feeds are distributed in compressed, ABR, and uncompressed IP and SDI baseband formats for traditional and TV Everywhere viewing.

Interesting from the technical perspective, but what really resonates with broadcasters is the chance that this software-centric solution offers to substantially improve the economics of the industry. For example, a national broadcaster could manage and control content to its affiliates via IP rather than other means, such as over-the-air satellite distribution. This model could not only significantly reduce infrastructure demands at both network and affiliate locations, but also help enable cost-effective scaling and reach into new geographic markets.

While there are obviously many questions, the feedback we’ve received has been overwhelmingly positive. The engineering team from one of the big networks who watched the demo said they liked the concept so much they were planning to build their own version of it. Another European broadcaster was also hooked on the idea, while looking for reassurance that the cloud would provide 100% security for his content and guarantee he would remain on-air at all times.

Away from our booth, the cloud was also generating a huge amount of buzz. The NAB keynote by Amazon Web Services’ Mark Ramberg said it’s amazing how far we’ve come in the cloud, with better security offered than customers could even get in-house and the potential to centralize vast amounts of content on a pay-as-you-go basis. The acceptability of the cloud is being reinforced by many technology companies and users alike, with multiple cloud services already being utilized, from local TV to the Sochi Olympics.

Erik Weaver of USC’s Entertainment Technology Center — the research institute set-up by George Lucas to develop technologies for the creative community — told NAB how the cloud gives you agility. “You can move so much faster, and the future moves much faster than the past did,” he said. “It is the evolution of digital: we have switched from film to file and now file to network.”

I can’t argue with that.

By Glodina Connan, Director of Product Marketing, Imagine Communications