The Show That Never Ends

At the turn of the century, a company called Napster fired the first shot of the media revolution by making songs available online. The revolution has continued – in fact, it has accelerated as broadband has made the internet a video distribution channel and incredible progress in digital technologies has put amazing new tools into the hands of creative people.

In the flood of change, however, it is easy to forget how much we depend on tried-and-true infrastructure. Satellite still delivers most TV programming, even if all the TV business wants to talk about is streaming. Complex facilities are still at the heart of program origination, and optical fiber still stitches together the locations where news, sports and pre-recorded content are made. Inside the revolution is an evolving mix of old and new, established and experimental, and the challenge of today is to make it all work together to serve the changing tastes of the viewing audience.

Delivering Showtime Content On the Air and Over the Wire

Twenty-four hours a day, Showtime brings feature films, sports and entertainment events, and original programming to the televisions, laptops and mobile phones of more than 25 million subscribers. And where does all that content originate? From the offices of Globecomm in Hauppauge, New York.

Showtime tv control room

Back in 2005, Showtime needed to find a new home, after operating for nearly 30 years from a facility owned by Viacom. Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone had decided to spin off the CBS broadcasting network and Showtime was part of the corporate package. Globecomm was already running a video-on-demand network it had developed for Showtime, and it was natural to include our company among bidders for a new Showtime broadcast center. We won that bid – and had just 12 months to design and integrate a broadcast center in our building and put it on the air.

Channel Cutover and Mother Nature

A great deal of ingenuity went into the design and a great deal of planning went into the nerve-wracking job of cutting over broadcast from the old center to the new. Thanks to that hard work, it took just a couple of hours to transition 25 standard digital channels, 3 HD channels and 1 analog channel to our building. What we did not plan on was a massive rainstorm with gale force winds that hit shortly afterward. It made headlines by knocking out part of the New York City subway system. Globecomm’s headquarters flooded with an inch of water throughout the building and three feet in our teleport. But if you were a Showtime viewer, you never knew it happened.

Streaming Success

As the media revolution gathered momentum, Showtime moved with it. In 2011, it introduced Showtime Anytime, an authenticated app for existing subscribers, followed by the Showtime app in 2015. They have since gained millions of subscribers. To serve the new requirement, Globecomm expanded the broadcast center by nearly 7,000 square feet to accommodate an advanced streaming management and monitoring center, where staff run services and route content on the public internet. Showtime streaming showroom

Quite a few of them are Globecomm employees. From the six Globecomm staff supporting Showtime in 2007, the support group has grown to more than 20 people. They are quality control and digital media operators, master control operators, VOD technicians and broadcast technicians. A senior broadcast engineer and integration technicians manage a continuous refresh cycle for the technology. By turning to Globecomm for staffing, Showtime gets the best of both worlds: access to the skills and experience it needs to run a changing business, and the ability to keep its own operation lean.

This story is adapted from a full-length case study. Read the case study.
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How Virtual Processing Turns Capex Into Opex

Content production costs are rising, and the demands of distribution are increasing every month. In response, broadcast and cable are adapting to digital disruption in the same way as every other long-tenured business. Broadcast decision-makers want to ensure that they continually strike the right balance as technology and corporate priorities evolve. That is leading them to rethink the video headend. The video headend is the main core of video management, and it controls a variety of functionalities, including ingest, storage, management, and packaging. cover art for Vector white paper

Traditionally, this complex workflow required an equally complex array of specialized devices, daisy-chained together and controlled with a mix of analog and digital systems. Costs were high, management was difficult and hardware failure was an ever-present concern. Recently, however, software virtualization has made possible a revolution in video headend design.

Applying software solutions to the encoding, multiplexing and distribution of content makes it possible for the broadcast industry to grow its content delivery capacity without adding to costs for channel processing hardware and data center operations. This architecture offers the speed and efficiency to deliver broadcast content in real time, near real time and ondemand. Software virtualization is a big first step toward reigning in capital expenditures, improving processing efficiencies, and enabling process automation.

Read the white paper, Capex to Opex in Broadcast Distribution.
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