Field Report: Scripps Networks Interactive’s Pebble Beach Playout Solution

For Scripps Networks Interactive, Pebble Beach Systems architected a multi-domain system with high levels of resilience and isolation between each functional area.

The US operation of UK-based Pebble Beach Systems recently supplied a 31 channel Marina playout automation solution and Dolphin integrated channel system to the Broadcast Operations Center at Scripps Networks Interactive headquarters in Tennessee. It follows the successful deployment of a DR system architected around Marina and Dolphin earlier this year.

Scripps Networks Interactive (SNI) is the leading developer of high-profile content for many lifestyle media platforms including television, digital, mobile and publishing. Popular lifestyle brands in its media portfolio include HGTV, DIY Network, Food Network, Cooking Channel, Travel Channel and Great American Country. The organization is headquartered in Knoxville, Tennessee.

At the flagship Broadcast Operations Center in Knoxville, one domain exclusively handles Ingest and Content Management, with a second and third dedicated to Primary and Backup Transmission respectively. The Ingest and Content Management domain incorporates a Harmonic ingest server to which files are delivered from an upstream file based workflow. Despite the high level of isolation, domains are able to synchronize metadata and playlists are mirrored automatically between Primary and Backup transmission domains.

Each of the 10 live to air channels is hosted on a dedicated Dolphin server to guarantee isolation, with each Dolphin offering Program, Preview, Clean and Spare outputs.

Customizable UI

Scott Wilkerson, Senior Systems Engineer at SNI, was pleased with the system's operation. “The Marina automation, paired with Dolphin play out, gives us a high level of fault tolerance and flexibility, with only a fraction of the footprint, cooling, and power required by a traditional play out system.  New channels can be spun up quickly, with minimal configuration, without affecting playback of existing transmission.  The software is native 64-bit and it shows, as multiple tasks can be performed simultaneously without resource contention."

The UI is completely customisable allowing us to build channel layouts specific to our unique needs.  The operators love the combination of column based and drag and drop editing, along with the powerful find and replace functions across multiple schedules.

Vital system flexibility

Jerry Nantz, Chief Engineer at SNI was concerned about upgrades. “In our environment it is not enough to be fully redundant and synchronized. We also know that upgrades will be necessary as new features are developed, and we did not want to fear these upgrades, and then delay them so long to cause issues. Pebble’s architecture which features 3 systems: A, B and DR, allows us to upgrade and test each system independently.”

“SNI is sensitive to the threat of cyber-attacks, electrical and HVAC outages, and human error, and we have taken every measure to prevent them, designing our system for reliability, performance, and protection. The Pebble architecture allows us to build the A and B systems in different technical areas of our building and the synchronized DR system in another city.”

“Key for us was the capability to rapidly spin up a new service. The Marina and Dolphin combination allows a new channel to be ready for the playout of a program stream for broadcast or OTT very quickly. Our primary consideration, however, is system functionality, and following a thorough evaluation we were satisfied that the Pebble system has the technology to carry out the tasks required today, together with the power to grow as our requirements increase.”

Cross-roads

John Ajamie, SVP, U.S. Operations at SNI likes the business model. “As a business, we are at a cross-roads where maintaining existing operations intersects with maturing IP and cloud computing solutions. Blending linear and non-linear distribution services into a single distribution mechanism is inevitable. Pebble Beach Systems’ hybrid approach will allow us to employ proven technologies to advance in this direction.”

“We want to enable our programming, promotions, digital and sales teams to respond quickly to market conditions and make last minute changes to both linear and non-linear services. We can reduce the amount of equipment in racks, and, more importantly, cut the time to deploy new services.” Ajamie said.

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