Channel-in-a-Box Technology

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One rapidly growing component of the automation business are channel-in-a-box solutions that allow stations and programmers to easily launch new programming feeds on digital sub-channels or to centralize operations for more than one station at a single facility with little or no additional operating costs.

The Community Idea Stations in Richmond, Va., for example, first automated their operations as part of the 2009 launch of a new digital operations center that used Snell’s automation, routing and master control products.

As a result of that 2009 upgrade, the facility was able automate seven feeds, one from WCVW in Richmond and three each from WCVE in Richmond and WHTJ in Charlottesville, Va.

This year, to make the transition to HD and to have greater control over the content they are passing along, the stations purchased three of Snell’s Integrated Content Engine (ICE) units, says Mark Spiller, VP for engineering and digital operations at Commonwealth Public Broadcasting, which owns the Community Idea Stations.

The ICE units integrated in with the Snell Morpheus automation system allowed them to upgrade the WCBW feed from standard-definition to HD in April and to have greater control over the HD feeds for the two other stations, Spiller says.

“It was just a matter of getting the ICE boxes and tying them into the existing automation system,” he says. “If we want to add additional channels, all we need to do is add another box.”

Looking forward, these simple modular upgrades could also provide public stations throughout the state with a way of cutting costs by centralizing their master controls or other operations. “We’ve had preliminary talks about possibly of implementing that,” Spiller says. “We have the infrastructure in place. If we wanted to add another station, all we would have to do is buy another ICE box.”