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CNN Heats Up With Pathfire

CNN Newsource last week began affiliate testing of the new Pathfire system that will eventually eliminate the need for scheduled feeds, giving the news service more-timely delivery of content.

The Pathfire system transmits IP-packetized video via satellite to video servers at the affiliate stations. The video is then stored on the server as separate files, with two files sent for each story: an MPEG-2 version for on-air use (it can be transferred to tape or to another server) and an MPEG-1 version that also includes video, text and other metadata.

"So far, the system is operating very efficiently," says CNN Technology Development Manager Sardy Bernard of the test, which involves about 90% of CNN Newsource's 680 affiliates. "With this system, we'll be able to get content to our affiliates as soon as we get it."

Pathfire designed a new version of its Digital Media Gateway for CNN Newsource. Called Digital Media Gateway Gold, it features several client-side improvements, including a lighter version that is easier to use and more efficient on older machines.

"There were also improvements in the transport mechanism to ensure that stations get the video in the quickest time possible," adds Bernard.

The concept of the digital newsroom is still relegated primarily to stations in the top 50 markets. But this system will change that because many CNN Newsource affiliates are in markets smaller than the top 50.

"Stations that aren't familiar with the digital newsroom will now have a system that lets them browse low-resolution video," Bernard explains. "The great thing about the system is that our affiliates get the gear and then work it into their system as they see fit."

All of the content that CNN Newsource would normally send out on the scheduled feeds is being sent out in the test, according to CNN Newsource Executive Vice President Jack Underwood. The biggest technical problem has been reminding station personnel how to operate the system.

Underwood adds that the decision to use the system was not driven by the possibility of signing on 300 or 400 more stations. Instead, the goal was to improve content delivery.

CNN Newsource has 11 encode workstations, where employees ingest news and sports content for distribution. The content is then sent via satellite to the stations. "The content resides on their server," notes Bernard, "and they can view it and use it anytime."

Stations will have a week's worth of content available to pull up and use. They will also be able to archive some of the content beyond a week and also request CNN Newsource to place older material back on the system if the need arises.