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Unified Headends for Broadcast and OTT: Deliver Flawless Content to Every Screen

March 10, 2020
2-Minute Read
Senior Product Manager, Primary Distribution/Edge

Delivering media and TV channels to affiliates and consumers worldwide has developed into a dynamic and diverse industry. Broadcasters and pay-TV operators delivering services using cable, IPTV, satellite (DTH) or traditional digital terrestrial TV (DTT) networks have been navigating a shift in consumer behavior and the expansion of the internet that sparked the arrival of over-the-top (OTT) services.

These services have changed almost every facet of our daily lives: telephones, video, audio and messaging, even shopping. The same is true for the media. Most broadcast and pay-TV companies have already implemented OTT services in order to fulfill growing consumer demand. This has encouraged OTT adoption, and services have become increasingly reliable, and accessible. For most broadcasters and pay-TV providers, OTT has been an important investment that creates new revenue opportunities. In the U.S., OTT services compensate for cord-cutting consumers and without a massive price tag.

Today, the focus is on providing the best broadcast services with OTT services that match broadcast quality. This leaves many broadcasters and pay-TV operators asking an important question for their business: How can I most effectively implement, improve, or refresh my OTT infrastructure to meet consumer demands, monetize effectively and still leverage my broadcast services? It’s a multifaceted answer, and it starts with a unified headend.


Defining the unified headend

What is a unified headend? Unified headends, or converged headends, are the hardware and software supporting every step of the service generation workflow for both OTT and broadcast deliveries.

A typical workflow goes from playout to delivery and includes playout, encoders, transcoders, multiplexers, a packager and origin, storage servers, switches, modulators, and other equipment.

The goal of the unified headend is to ensure high-quality and efficient service delivery across all screens, on any transport network, including IPTV, cable, satellite, DTT, and the internet.


Advantages of a unified headend

The reasons to unify the headend to deliver broadcast and OTT services are tenfold.

  • Streamlined operations: Sharing the same live sources for both broadcast and OTT deliveries simplifies the video distribution implementation, regardless of how sources handled: SDI uncompressed over IP, or TS over IP. Channels are monitored and managed irrespective of whether it is broadcast or OTT delivery. By streamlining operations, you can leverage a single management system for a clear view, end to end, for easier configuration and control.
  • Simplified design: A unified headend gives you the opportunity to use the same technology to do it all, to optimize hardware resource for redundancy as the same servers can be spares for both broadcast and OTT service delivery and to have a single monitoring room. Ultimately, it is about less complexity which means easier maintenance and less infrastructure which equates lower costs.
  •  Optimized support and services: By reducing monitoring checkpoints you can simplify troubleshooting. A unified headend allows you to share resources and reduce the need to expand and train separate operators and support teams. You can then reduce support requirements and mutualize the SLA.
    It also results in:
    • Reduced spares
    • Easier upgrades
    • Faster bug correction
    • Higher feature velocity

These are just of few of the benefits that a unified headend for broadcast and OTT can provide. Depending on your business, there may be even more opportunities to lower costs and supplement revenues. Think of offering additional services like SVOD, time-shifting or creating premium UHD channels.


Know your deployment options

Optimizing resources is the name of the game, and a unified headend is all about streamlining. To compete in the world of video, you need flexibility and agility. However, there is no one-size-fits-all option. When it comes to a unified headend for broadcast and OTT delivery, you have choices to make. There are some important questions that every broadcaster and pay-TV operator should ask beforehand, like:

  • Do I plan to extend or renew my headend for OTT and broadcast services?
  • What deployment model is best suited for my business?

While some operators may benefit from leveraging on-premises solutions, others may find greater benefit from a full SaaS solution in the cloud.

Do you have questions about how to best deliver broadcast and OTT services? At Harmonic, we make your media processing and delivery simple. Let’s get in touch to talk about your unified headend solution.

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