Case Study: Making Outside Broadcast an Affordable Reality

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Until very recently, traditional outside broadcasting (OB) was the preserve of large events with big budgets, such as major sporting fixtures and rock concerts. Only those events that commanded sufficient ad revenue could afford the mammoth cost of using dedicated OB units to broadcast live.

Producers of smaller events with more limited budgets might be able to film proceedings on a consumer handheld camera and even make the video and audio available on demand through their websites, but the cost of hiring a professional OB team made live broadcasting unthinkable for all but those hosting the very biggest events. Even if a live event could have a potential audience of tens of thousands—for example, the annual general meeting of a major multinational company—the cost of traditional OB units made it uneconomical, if not unaffordable, to broadcast live.

Now, cheaper broadband, affordable IP VSAT satellite connectivity, and the falling costs of production equipment mean that virtually any live event has the potential to be broadcasted and viewed on a number of different devices, including TVs, computers, and mobile phones. Global-MIX provides the tools needed to deliver live and on-demand content worldwide via the internet as reliably as traditional broadcasting. The company enables any live event, from an awards ceremony to a company press call, to be broadcast live to the web, TV, or a handheld device for €1,600 (about $2,200 U.S.).

In October 2008, the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) became one of the first organisations to draw upon Global-MIX’s dedicated outside broadcasting experience to provide professionally managed and cost-effective live internet coverage for its annual Staff Recognition Awards.

The Challenge

The Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust is one of the leading foundation trusts in the country, with more than 10,500 staff members providing general and specialist hospital care for the people of Birmingham, Solihull, Sutton Coldfield, Tamworth, and South Staffordshire. The trust wanted to bring the whole organisation together and give those unable to attend the ceremony a chance to share in their colleagues’ success. It approached Global-MIX to implement full, live internet coverage.

“We wanted to embrace new technology but we needed a supplier that had the substantial knowledge, experience and a unique set of skills within the Internet broadcasting sector to successfully meet our requirements,” says Lisa Dunn, director of Birmingham Heartlands Hospital. “Global-MIX fitted the bill perfectly.”

Figure 1
Figure 1. Global-MIX encoded the live feeds from the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust Staff Recognition Awards using an Inlet Technologies' Spinnaker 5000, and then distributed the footage using a 512Kbps Windows Media Video stream

Advantages of Multicasting

The Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust Staff Recognition Awards was captured live by Global-MIX’s OB team and streamed live to viewers over the internet using multicasting.

Live broadcast in the conventional sense, in which a mass signal is disseminated across an unlimited number of receivers that tune into it, is not viable over the internet because of bandwidth and cost issues. When companies wish to broadcast live over the web, they normally opt for unicasting, in which data is disseminated directly
from a sender to a number of preselected receivers (computers). This requires an individual stream for every receiver, making unicasting bandwidth- and cost-intensive.

Multicasting significantly keeps the distribution costs down for any broadcaster, as the live data feed is sent to a single source, where it is replicated and sent to an audience that requests to receive the stream. This process cuts down the number of streams required, reducing the amount of bandwidth and cost and making live internet broadcasts scalable and cost-effective.

By dramatically reducing the cost of broadcasting, Global-MIX makes television coverage an affordable reality for many niche events. Live events can be delivered to audiences of thousands or tens of thousands for prices less than €6,000 (about $7,500 U.S.). When the production is already in place, the company can often bring this cost to under €1,600 (about $2,200 U.S.) by providing only compression and distribution. In comparison, traditional television broadcasts start at about €10,000 (about $15,000 U.S.) and scale up quickly with the cost of the production.

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