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Sinclair Broadcast Group moves playout to the public cloud for daily three-hour block of kids programming

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Sinclair Broadcast Group, the North American broadcast giant that owns, operates or sells for 193 stations and 611 channels, has moved critical operations for some of its children’s programming to a fully virtualized public cloud environment. The playout and ad trafficking operations for KidsClick, a three-hour-a-day programming block shown on a number of stations, have been centralized using commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) equipment. A key benefit is the ability to deliver programming and advertising that can be customised to the requirements of individual affiliates. “This approach significantly increases efficiency, flexibility and speed to market, when compared to traditional on-premises approaches,” says Imagine Communications, which has worked closely with Sinclair Broadcast Group on the project.

Del Parks, CTO at Sinclair Broadcast Group (SBG), says: “The scalability and customisation capabilities that the public cloud approach offers is unlike anything we could do using a traditional, on-premises model. Since we are only delivering this programming for a few hours a day, the flexibility of originating in the public cloud is a far superior alternative to purchasing traditional equipment that would sit idle for many hours at a time. We also gain experience and confidence in this operating model that we can use for future cloud deployments.”

KidsClick operations are powered by Versio Platform, Imagine’s modular, software-only and ‘cloud-native’ playout solution designed for fully virtualized environments, both private and public. In the KidsClick model, an instance of Versio, running a unique playlist and ad load, is assigned to each time zone. In the future, stations may customise programming and deploy targeted advertising to a specific broadcast area.

This inherently scalable approach enables different versions of content and new affiliates to be added to the KidsClick distribution system almost instantaneously, simply by spinning up a new instance of Versio. Required resources are automatically allocated in the cloud, and then released when those resources are no longer needed.

“In addition to near-limitless scalability and resource elasticity, SBG can take advantage of running an operating business model and Software as a Service (SaaS) pricing scheme, eliminating dependence on capital expenditures normally associated with traditional channel expansion or technology refreshes,” Imagine Communications points out.

Versio Platform is a pure microservices platform, which means that the software that runs in the cloud has been specially architected for use there and not originally designed for local processing and then shifted onto cloud servers. [If you want to know more about microservices-based cloud technologies, read this Videonet report on the subject.] Versio Platform makes it possible for SBG to spin-up new channels and playlists quickly and without the need to purchase or provision new equipment.

SBG is also using SelenioFlex File from Imagine Communications, a file-based processing solution that is also running in the public cloud. This will transcode, adjust bit-rates, convert formats and process audio for pre-produced KidsClick content.

SBG has centralised operations for KidsClick at its Las Vegas Network Operations Center (NOC). This project took roughly six months from concept to deployment.

“This broadcast industry first is an important and positive first step showcasing the power of Versio Platform running in a public cloud environment and how it can be used to streamline operations, accelerate speed-to-market and tap into the flexibility and reliability of a virtualized environment for the distribution of broadcast content,” declares Tom Cotney, CEO of Imagine Communications. “SBG is demonstrating that even the largest broadcasters and media companies in the world have the potential to thoroughly improve the performance and efficiency of their operations by moving them to virtualized, geo-dispersed environments.”


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