Any Channel, Anywhere by Juliet Bayliss Contention Distribution, GlobeCast How distribution service providers make broadcasting a global industry ne of the features of the diversified, multi-platform media world we have today is the greater involvement of organizations that perform a specialist role in the complex chain stretching from content originator to viewer. It has been a long time since a broadcaster has owned the entire chain from talent, camera and production crew all the way through the transmission network of masts that beamed the signal into the home. Today, with content owners requiring distribution of their assets over multiple platforms, from terrestrial to satellite, cable, internet and mobile, and to any point in the world, it's understandably quite rare for any broadcaster to be responsible for more than a small link in the chain. The range of technologies and different types of infrastructures involved in a typical media brand's operation makes it almost inevitable that third-party providers play a part, in a variety of roles. Both production and distribution of channels now tend to be geographically dispersed, and the movement of content from one place to another is a major feature of the industry today. Specialist providers with global infrastructure offer broadcasters the means to project their presence to any audience around the world, but even within domestic markets broadcasters often work with distribution partners who can offer facilities far more costeffectively, through economies of scale. The complexity of a bouquet operator's offering -- bringing together its own original channels together with others from broadcasters anywhere on 44 | TV-BAY MAGAZINE O the globe, and packaging them as a service to geographically diverse audiences can require anything from a simple delivery of channel content from a production center in one country to the uplink site in another, or the requirement can be for something more like an end-to-end service. Each broadcaster or bouquet operator has its own unique requirements, so distribution service providers can be asked to offer anything from a simple fiber link from point to point, to a complete channel build with playout, regionalized advertising and content substitution, conditional access and EPG data integration, as well as delivery to the point of uplink. Sky offers an example of two different approaches: Sky Italia takes content from broadcasters such as Turner and Discovery Channel from their London sites, via the GlobeCast Backbone Network, which transports it to Sky Italia's Milan headquarters. From there, the platform operator manages the final stages, adding the conditional access and EPG data before uplinking the package for DTH. It's a rather different arrangement for Sky's UK operation, where there is an adaptation hub at the service provider's site: this allows Sky to send conditional access and EPG data to GlobeCast and other providers like Arqiva, who can combine it with the channel content and uplink direct to the Eurobird or Astra satellites. The global infrastructure that links content owners to their audiences is made up of a combination of fiber links and satellite capacity, which can be employed flexibly in any configuration to achieve a customized service that meets each broadcaster's needs. The satellite capacity means that bouquet operators like CanalSat can be provided with a full uplink service to the Astra satellite, and from there to Spanish and French viewers. For contribution stages (for example, getting channel content from the point of origination to the location where it is packaged with the other channels in the bouquet) fiber links are usually the preferred solution, on the basis of cost. But this is not always the case: if a content owner wants to reach several platforms in one region, it may be more cost-effective to contribute via a satellite signal that can be downloaded by bouquet operators in several countries covered by the footprint if the content owner's distribution team can strike five or six deals, a single satellite feed could turn out more economical than six point to point fiber feeds. Occasionally a broadcaster's needs are such that a completely dedicated network is the best solution. This is the case for Al Jazeera, where production is distributed across four timezones for round the clock coverage, with heavy traffic resulting between the major bureaux in each zone. Bouquet operators and content owners also want to reach audiences in hotels, and viewers on IPTV platforms: well-connected service providers offer the means to achieve this. In fact, as a glance through the hundreds of channels your EPG lists will confirm, distribution service providers offer the means for any channel to reach an audience on any continent, no matter where it originates from.