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fuboTV Rolls Out TV Blackout Standard

fuboTV, the sports-oriented virtual MVPD, says it’s the first to fully implement SCTE 224, a standard that enables distributors to handle blackouts and deliver alternative streams of content, when the requirement arises.

The ability to support blackouts and deliver those alternative streams tend to come into play with respect to regional sports networks and some broadcast TV stations.

That sophisticated and somewhat tricky capability is important to OTT TV providers like fuboTV, which recently introduced a larger beta version of its service that includes certain regional sports networks and local TV feeds.

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Among other virtual MVPDs, Sling TV implements blackouts successfully on a number of channels, but confirmed that it does currently use SCTE 224, an official said.

As the standard explains, SCTE 224 came to be as QAM delivery of video transitions to IP, and extends to devices like smartphones, tablets and gaming consoles. “As distributors migrate to IP-delivered content, systems must be created to replicate the traditional functional systems in order to create a contiguous service capability between QAM and IP video delivery,” the standard reads, noting that it is targeted to MVPDs as well as programmers and distributors that implement TV Everywhere apps.

fuboTV, which has been investing heavily into its streaming platform, said it has implementing a system that automates the process, including schedule updates and device-level requirements.  In the case of Fox’s regional sports networks, distribution partners have to mix and match dozens of signals for an even larger number of combinations depending on the market and the geo-location of the viewer.

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Fox uses SCTE 224 signaling to aid in this mixing and matching and markers to indicate when an alternative stream if content is required, but other programmers use spreadsheets that are inadequate for automated systems. 

fuboTV,  company CTO Jason Solinsky said, has developed software that translates those spreadsheets to adhere to the SCTE 224 standard under the hood of its streaming platform.

“There’s no humans. It just does what it’s supposed to do,” he said.

The current goal is to migrate the platform completely to a software-driven system outfitted with machine learning capabilities by the end of 2017, Solinsky said.

More about fuboTV’s broader strategy and what it’s doing to compete in an increasingly crowded market of virtual MVPDs will be featured in the Next TV section of the March 13 edition of Broadcasting & Cable.