In terms of distributing their valuable content, movie studios, television networks, and producers of independent programming have a lot to think about these days. The permutations are numerous. Table 1 shows the multitude of content types, business models, and end-point devices that are available.

Table 1: Types of content service, monetization and endpoint devices for content delivery
Type of Content Service Type of Monetization Endpoint Devices
Linear Video Broadcast Flat-fee Subscription Outside-the-home at public venue
Pay-per-View (Scheduled) Variable Tier Subscription Ultra HD TV display
Video-on-Demand Pay-per-View 3-D TV
Time-Shifted Video(in-home PVR) Pay for Access HDTV set
Time-Shifted Video (RS-DVR) Annual Membership SD TV set
Multi-Way Conferencing Linear Advertising PC – Desktop
Personalized Channel Lists Advanced Advertising PC – Laptop
Programming Enhancements Micro-Payments Netbook
Widgets for social networks Subsidies and Coupons Smartphone
Interviews Government subsidized Handset
Longer scenes Loss leader Portable media player
Links to coming attractions Free Video game console
Personalized highlights In-Vehicle entertainment center
Fantasy sports updates Other

This flux is creating new opportunities.

The leading commercial television broadcaster in the UK, ITV, has taken a novel and possibly trend-setting approach to managing its assets and navigating this maze.

ITV’s Play-Out Center is an example of a complete network operations center (NOC) for television broadcaster that runs on a nearly all-IP system. This "Play-Out machine" provides a lower cost of operations, a flexible group of features, and upward scalability. It’s a model of the future for television production and distribution.

ITV 1, the broadcaster’s flagship network, provides 23 regional versions of its main channel. Beyond managing that network, ITV also needed to take control of how their content gets repurposed for broadband delivery, catch-up TV services, video-on-demand (VOD) for cable TV, and mobile video services. As of June 2009, the ITV Play-Out Center was delivering 50 channels of full-time video, with more on the way.

In an interesting twist, ITV chose to out-source the construction and full time operation of this fully integrated Play-Out center to Thomson’s Technicolor Unit. The design uses Cisco System’s 10 Gigabit Ethernet to distribute 3Gbps uncompressed HDTV.

Features that are baked into the architecture include:

  • Ingest/Capture Once, repurpose, deliver across multiple platforms,

  • Long-term migration support for eventual move to High Definition,

  • Two hubs for a redundant, reliable broadcast content delivery network (CDN),

  • Broadband partners for additional CDNs to improve reach.

The ITV Play-Out Center, operated by Technicolor, is a prime example of a content provider using a data center approach to lower costs, improve flexibility, and provide a technical pathway toward the future.

Gerry Kaufhold is principal analyst, In-Stat. This essay is adapted from "CDNs and Data Centers to Usurp Video-on-Demand," an In-Stat research report.

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