The Vital Role of Unified Distribution
For Ongoing Success in the TV Business

Part 1


Technology Advances Enable Broadcasters and MVPDs
To Maximize ROI in the Multiscreen Services Environment


As disruption continues to roil the premium video marketplace, content producers and distributors alike are under mounting pressure to find a uniform approach to reaching all screens that can minimize impediments to cost containment, strategic flexibility and revenue growth.

Imagine Communications has met this challenge with development of a distribution architecture that takes an innovative approach to utilizing the mechanisms that have made HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol)-based streaming technology a viable means of delivering TV-quality video to connected devices. This new Unified Distribution architecture, now in the early stages of deployment by a growing number of major providers, is built on a simple premise:

It is now possible to rely on HTTP with fragmented encoding of content as the foundation for delivering revenue-generating TV content in HD and even UHD formats to TV sets as well as personal devices, eliminating complications that result from layering the HTTP infrastructure onto legacy transport stream-centric infrastructures.

By making fragmentation of content central to the encoding process at core distribution facilities, broadcasters and MVPDs (multichannel video programming distributors) can rely on one mode of distribution for every piece of content, eliminating the need at various secondary and tertiary staging points for the transcoding and packaging processes currently used to format video for HTTP delivery to connected devices. This, of course, requires a break with the way providers utilize terrestrial backbones, where premium content is encoded and encapsulated in IP packets at core facilities for multicasting in UDP (User Datagram Protocol)-based transport streams to regional and local distribution facilities.

To make this possible while ensuring support for TV distribution in the legacy domain, Imagine has created the first software-based platform designed to convert HTTP-delivered fragments into the continuous UDP-encapsulated MPEG-2 Transport Streams that are required to accommodate reception on legacy set-tops. Known as the Selenio Video Delivery Edge (VDE), this advanced component runs on the same type of COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) hardware that’s commonly used to support generic compute and networking functionality, such as today’s HTTP content delivery networks (CDNs).


Part 2


HTTP-Based Architecture Unleashes Power of Addressable
Advertising with Big Reductions in CapEx and OpEx


As TV broadcast networks respond to audience fragmentation by extending their reach across all available outlets they have an unprecedented opportunity to drive new revenue while cutting operations costs through adoption of an IP streaming-based Unified Distribution architecture.

Broadcasters everywhere are leveraging IP transformation to overcome the encumbrances of a legacy production and channel origination environment populated by islands of proprietary hardware systems. But as broadcasters employ these measures to respond to ever-changing consumer demand for compelling content at national and global scales there’s another major step that needs to be taken if broadcasters are to realize the full potential of IP technology.

That step, as discussed at length in Part 1, entails implementation of a Unified Distribution architecture based on HTTP to stream content to distributors in the legacy and OTT premium video domains as well as directly to consumers through broadcasters’ own Web outlets. For broadcasters perhaps the greatest benefit to be realized from shifting to terrestrial distribution across HTTP-based networks using fragmented content delivery as opposed to the traditional streaming mode is the opportunity to fully exploit the revenue-generating power of dynamic advertising.

Despite widespread demand across the advertising industry for the higher ROI on TV ads that comes with addressability, the long-discussed benefits have only been implemented in fits and starts with limited reach in the legacy pay TV domain. This has left the traditional TV business at a disadvantage against the surging Internet ad business, where dynamic advertising is the norm. Broadcasters’ use of fragmented content infrastructure to support addressable advertising everywhere would not only drive higher CPMs in the legacy domains; it would give them an interstitial dynamic video placement advantage over traditional Internet banner and tangential video advertising modes in the OTT domain.

With fragmented media content delivered across their terrestrial backbones broadcasters can exploit the capabilities of an advanced Unified Distribution infrastructure at any location, from their own and OTT providers’ core points of origin to local broadcast and MVPD facilities. These advanced capabilities, now in commercial use worldwide, leverage the fact that the manifest files containing data that HTTP clients use to sequentially select the bitrate for each fragment of content sent from a streamer can be augmented with additional information in a process known as manifest manipulation.


Part 3


Operators Gain Flexibility Essential to Service Expansion,
Addressable Advertising and New Lines of Wholesale Business


At a time of unprecedented market upheaval MVPDs can achieve the strategic maneuverability essential to outpacing competitors by adopting a Unified Distribution architecture that extends the capabilities of HTTP distribution technology to legacy and next-gen operations alike.

Now that advances in processing power and intelligence used with fragmented encoding and manifest-based delivery have made it possible for MVPDs to expand the reach of pay TV services beyond the traditional set-top box, there’s no reason they should have to continue relying on traditional equipment and processes that impede their ability to compete against more nimble OTT players. As described in Part 1, MVPDs can eliminate the costs, operational burdens and barriers to growth imposed by maintaining two operating environments by implementing fragmented content distribution over a single HTTP-based network infrastructure as the foundation for transporting content across their national, regional and metropolitan backbones.

Practically speaking, this means MVPDs must be able to convert fragmented, HTTP-delivered video to serve a traditional installed STB base for as long as it takes to complete the transition to STBs that are capable of receiving fragmented HTTP video streams. As previously discussed, Imagine Communications has made this possible by introducing the industry’s first edge platform suited to performing this task.

Along with incorporating all the dynamic content manipulation capabilities of an advanced HTTP-based platform, Imagine’s Selenio Video Delivery Edge (VDE) supports conversion of content processed through these mechanisms to the UDP-encapsulated MPEG 2 TS mode of transmission used in QAM-based cable pay TV and telco IPTV services. This serves not only to support consolidation of video processing across all screens but also to extend the HTTP-enabled user experience (UX) and monetization options to STB-connected TV sets.