A Comprehensive Guide to Playout in Broadcasting

A comprehensive guide to playout in broadcasting

Whether you're a seasoned broadcast professional looking to extend your reach or new to the industry and want to distribute your content through a TV channel, having a sound knowledge of playout is essential. So, what is playout?

Put simply, playout can be defined as the part of the broadcasting process that transmits the content from the source to the viewer. As you would expect, as the broadcast industry has evolved, it has had to become more sophisticated. In a relatively short space of time, channel owners have gone from distributing their content to TVs via cable, satellite or terrestrial digital, to also making it accessible across multiple platforms and devices. This includes set-top boxes, streaming devices, as well as computers and mobile devices.

Understanding playout

Let’s begin by unpicking broadcasting playout in more detail. Playout solutions and service providers carry out the function of taking video files or live feeds and transmitting them to viewers. With frame accurate precision, playout continuously combines multiple media elements such as live and pre-recorded video, ads, audio, graphics, and subtitles. Content may be delivered to viewers via various distribution platforms such as satellite, cable, IPTV or CDN for watching on TVs, computers, and mobile devices. Playout systems may be part of on-prem infrastructure, be hardware or software based, or cloud-based. Cloud playout is becoming increasingly popular as the broadcast industry continues on its journey to a cloud-based future.

A playout operator is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operation of playout systems. They may be in-house or part of a managed service and will troubleshoot any technical issues that may arise. With their expertise in scheduling, monitoring, and troubleshooting, playout operators play an important role in maintaining the quality of broadcast programming.

Linear and non-linear playout

Content may be delivered to viewers in a linear or non-linear format. Linear TV channels follow a set schedule with programming running in a sequence, as is the case with traditional TV. TV channels can be permanent, continuously playing twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, or temporarily in the form of a pop-up channel that is made available for a few hours, days or weeks, perhaps for a specific event or to gauge interest.

Playout systems can distribute linear channels to traditional TV as well as via OTT as FAST (Free ad-supported TV) channels. FAST channels show a pre-planned schedule of programming with ads, like traditional TV, but are streamed rather than accessed over cable, digital or satellite.

When content is delivered in anon-linear format, viewers can choose what to watch when they want. Video-on-Demand (VOD) OTT services like Netflix and Disney+ are examples of non-linear content distribution. Changing viewing habits and increased competition has driven most traditional broadcasters to adapt their services and extend their offering to include delivery to OTT as well as standard TV. BBC and ITV in the UK, for example, both offer a mix of traditional linear TV channels, streamed linear channels as well as on-demand content.

Cloud playout  

Cloud playout solutions have improved a great deal over recent years and are now just as technically capable as hardware-based equivalents. They also offer flexibility, scalability and often lower total cost than traditional hardware solutions. Not only does cloud playout remove the need for physical infrastructure, but it also makes for a flexible and adaptable solution because channel owners can access and manage their channels from any location. It also enables channels to be launched and closed off quickly and easily in line with demand. Broadcasters can easily scale their operations by launching additional channels and expanding into new regions and platforms.

Potential cost savings arise because choosing this option does away with the need to purchase, maintain, and upgrade costly hardware. If you don’t have hardware, you don’t need a physical site to house it. Additionally, cloud solutions and services typically work on a pay-as-you-use basis, so they are an efficient way of working in that you only pay for what you need.

Key requirements of a playout system

Firstly, a simple user interface that allows all channels to be visualised in one place is paramount. User-friendliness and intuitiveness are key. A playout system must be easy to navigate and use, both for efficiency and to avoid errors. Having a simple user interface is particularly important when managing multiple channels because there are more variables to juggle than with a single channel, so operational complexity increases.

Next, to manage channels effectively, you need a solution that provides advanced controls along with automation, intelligent management, and analytic tools. The ability to automate repetitive playout tasks such as ingest and QC is important because it helps to improve efficiency and streamline the process. It also frees up playout operators’ time so they can instead concentrate on tasks that require manual input such as scheduling live events.

Scheduling, the process determining the order of play for programmes, is an essential part of the playout operation. When done well, it boosts engagement and viewers stay watching the channel for longer. The schedule should align with the target audience's behaviour and lifestyle, considering factors such as school or work hours. User-friendly scheduling tools offer features like block creation and automated gap filling to simplify the playout process.

Lastly, enhanced graphics capabilities are vital for audience engagement. Graphics, ranging from logos to animations, contribute significantly to branding and overall viewer experience. Cloud playout solutions should support high-quality graphics formats like HTML5, enabling broadcasters to create visually stunning content that captivates audiences.

Meet Veset: the playout experts

There are undoubtedly lots of considerations when it comes to playout and no two media companies are the same, so it’s important to choose the right solution to meet your individual needs. Veset has been focused on delivering professional playout for linear and live channels since 2011 so has the knowledge and expertise needed to help you create a professional channel and deliver it to audiences worldwide over a variety of platforms.  

Veset’s flagship product, Nimbus, enables broadcasters and managed service providers to create professional linear TV channels and deliver them to any television distribution platform from OTT to satellite. Veset Nimbus is a pay-as-you-go, self-service and all-in-one cloud playout platform for channel management that provides broadcasters, both large and small, with a quick, efficient and economical way of managing linear and live TV channels. It is an intuitive and powerful platform designed to streamline professional linear channel operations.

As a cloud playout, software-as-a-service solution, Nimbus takes full advantage of the cloud, allowing content owners to manage multiple linear channels flexibly, whilst future-proofing their operations. Being a cloud-based solution also provides greater scalability and high levels of redundancy while delivering high-quality video streams over IP.

If you want to find out more about how Veset can help you create and manage professional linear TV channels, or for a demo of the playout solution Veset Nimbus, get in touch.

By using this website, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy and Cookies Policy for more information.

This website uses cookies.... expand

I agree 🍪