Customer Profile

Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. (SBG) is a diversified media company and leading provider of local sports and news. The Company owns and/or operates 23 regional sports network brands; owns, operates and/or provides services to 191 television stations in 89 markets; is a leading local news provider in the country; owns multiple national networks; and has TV stations affiliated with all the major broadcast networks.

Business Challenge

With the introduction of a national and multiplatform programming block aimed at children, Sinclair Broadcast Group (SBG) was set to reenter a content area that has long been a staple of broadcast television. But rather than rely on traditional means for delivering content to its affiliate stations and other distribution destinations, SBG desired an approach to playout that would enable the broadcaster to better customize content and more precisely target advertising to the needs of individual affiliates.

SBG also required a technology foundation for the project that would prove economically feasible for provisioning resources that would only be in use for a few hours a day, and would easily adapt to changing market dynamics and technology refreshes. SBG’s on-air plans called for an incremental rollout of the new service to a large share of its nearly 200 affiliates, making the ability to quickly scale distribution operations another must-have attribute of the operation.

“The scalability and customization capabilities that the public cloud approach offers are unlike anything we could do using a traditional, on-premises model. And since we’re 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.”

Del Parks, CTO, Sinclair Broadcast Group

Technology Solution

This stringent set of economic, productivity and technology requirements led SBG to select a fully virtualized approach to playout and content delivery. SBG worked closely with Imagine Communications and a public cloud provider to move workflows related to its new programming to a geo-dispersed and highly scalable environment that leverages cloud elasticity to optimally balance resources with required workloads.

In addition to tapping into the benefits of the public cloud, SBG derives significant agility and speed-to-market capabilities from Versio™, Imagine’s software-based modular playout solution. Versio is designed for fully virtualized environments, both private and public, but is also portable to a premises-based model.

In Sinclair’s model, an instance of Versio, capable of running a unique playlist, content and ad load, is assigned to each affiliate, allowing SBG-owned stations to customize programming and target advertising to a specific time zone. Needed resources are automatically allocated in the public cloud, and then released when no longer needed.

Versio, which tightly integrates with SBG’s existing installation of Imagine traffic and scheduling software, is designed to be futureproof. Its microservices architecture enables SBG to incorporate new capabilities and features as they become available, as opposed to the forklift upgrades that a hardware-based solution often requires.

Business Value

The business benefits of this boundary-breaking installation are primarily derived through the migration of traditional applications to a virtualized environment and include near limitless scalability, resource elasticity, and rapid service introduction. The almost-instantaneous provisioning of a new instance of Versio is key to enabling SBG to eventually customize content and commercial payload for each affiliate, exposing the broadcaster to fresh opportunities to increase customer loyalty and generate new revenue through richer ad targeting. The software-only approach also allows SBG to add new affiliates to the service’s distribution system without the costs and investment in time that are required with a hardware-based solution.

From a financial standpoint, the virtual nature of the new deployment enables the broadcaster to transition its business model from capital-intensive to operational, which greatly simplifies provisioning and eliminates large capital outlays often required with the launch of a new service. SBG essentially pays for only the resources it uses, significantly increasing the cost effectiveness of a service that is operational for only a few hours each day. By outsourcing much of the operational overhead, SBG engineers and other media professionals are now free to focus on technical tasks that have a greater impact on customer loyalty and revenue growth.
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