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Decisionmark Offers DTV Multicast Solution

Decisionmark, the Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based firm that provides program guides, scheduling software and signal-reception information to broadcasters and DBS operators, has launched a new product aimed at local stations who want to offer new channels with their digital television spectrum.

Called “Channel Builder,” the system is basically a “station-in-a-box” solution for broadcasters looking to use DTV multicasts to offer local content that is separate from their primary program feed,says Decisionmark CEO Jack Perry. A four-rack-unit configuration assembled from off-the-shelf computer hardware, Channel Builder includes a small video server, serial digital inputs and outputs, and associated software that allows a program director to quickly create a “DTV sub-channel” by blending live video, stored video, graphics and data. The system costs $25,000, along with a small annual service fee.

The first station to use Channel Builder is ABC affiliate KCRG, in Decisionmark’s hometown of Cedar Rapids. Its “9.2” channel is broadcast as a DTV multicast, alongside the station’s normal HDTV signal, and is also carried on Ch. 109 by local cable operator Mediacomm.

“So far, we’re one-for-one on cable carriage,” quips Perry.

Since such a DTV subchannel is transmitted at a bit rate of about 1 Mb/s, it doesn’t detract from the quality of the primary broadcast signal, says Perry, and also shouldn’t represent a huge bandwidth burden for cable operators looking to add local content.

Decisionmark has demonstrated Channel Builder to some 60 broadcasters in the past few weeks, in “markets from No. 4 to 94,” says Perry. The system is of particular interest to stations looking to offer a local DTV channel to compete with NBC’s “Weather Plus” service, he adds.

“If you’re the weather leader in a market, you have to answer the challenge that Weather Plus has put out there.”