M+E Daily

How to Move From Satellite to IP Using Zixi’s SDVP

As C-band spectrum is re-allocated to accommodate for 5G development, forward-thinking media companies are increasingly adopting Internet Protocol (IP)  networks as a more flexible and efficient alternative to satellite for live content delivery.

During the webinar “How to Move From Satellite to IP: Zixi Case Study with Music Choice” on April 13, Zixi CEO Gordon Brooks and an executive from U.S. TV music service company Music Choice provided a real-world case study of a company’s switch from satellite to primary distribution over IP using Zixi’s Software-Defined Video Platform (SDVP).

In the webinar, which kicked off the Zixi Delivers Virtual Showcase webinar series, they explained how the SDVP’s flexible infrastructure helps to deliver broadcast quality video over IP networks securely, reliably and cost-effectively at scale. Customers are also able to leverage the SDVP’s advanced analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, they said.

Zixi’s SDVP is used by traditional broadcasters, over-the-top (OTT) broadcast services and other service providers to source, manage and distribute live events and 24/7 live linear channels over any IP network with any protocol, Brooks pointed out.

Those IP networks include the Internet, fiber, low orbit satellite, 4G and 5G, “which we’re doing a lot of lately,” he noted. Zixi’s SDVP supports 17 protocols, including Zixi’s own, is integrated with the major cloud providers and can run on any cloud system, and supports any edge device, he said. It pretty much supports any protocol that has “any traction in the market so that we future-proof your solution,” he explained.

More than 240 partners have Zixi built into their edge devices and software platforms to date and it’s distributed in over 100 countries to 700-plus media customers, he noted.

According to a fall 2020 report on the state of streaming media, 56% of companies surveyed indicated the Internet would be their primary IP network connectivity plan for video transport over the next 24 months, while 65% of video streaming infrastructures will be software-defined vs. hardware-defined over the same period, he said.

The Music Choice Case Study

Music Choice is one of several companies that have moved from satellite to IP using Zixi’s SDVP.

It digitally broadcasts audio-based music channels and video-related content to cable TV providers in the U.S. Music Choice reaches about 200 multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) customers accessing 54 million households in North America via linear TV channels, TV on-demand services, OTT systems and mobile applications.

The company has been around about 35 years, according to Michael McCrackan, SVP of engineering and operations at Music Choice.

“We’ve utilized [traditional] C-band satellite services for over 32 years and it’s been a very solid platform for us,” he said, noting it was used to “deliver our core music services to our customers.”

But he explained: While “satellite services work very well to deliver our national feed for us, we were limited by bandwidth capacity and not really able to take advantage of offering targeted streams to specific customers. And if we were to do that, it would have cost us much more to deliver those streams. So, given the advancements in technology – we’ve been monitoring this for quite some time – we were looking for alternative ways to deliver our signal. And Zixi was one of those that came to mind and we entered into the partnership. And it had some really good success for us.”

Noting that Music Choice offers a lot of channels and uses a low bit rate, he said: “When you drop a packet with an audio service, because it’s extremely low bit-rate, you’re going to hear that audio drop and, from a service standpoint, that’s detrimental for us. So that was one of the important criteria for us: to make sure that we were getting a service that was on par with traditional satellite.”

There were “a number of benefits that came with this transition” to IP, he said. For one thing, it was “constrained by the satellite bandwidth.” It could have extended that bandwidth but it would have been costly to do so, he explained.

“With Zixi it is rather easy to set up a new stream and change the profile of the content that we’re providing and direct that stream to a particular customer. So that was a benefit to us” also, he noted.

“By transitioning off of satellite, it cost us about one quarter the cost to operate so there’s a big cost savings there” as well, he said.

“We’re [also] able to generate unique content to MVPDs” so the company can do direct marketing or messaging with certain MVPDs and “we couldn’t do that with a national feed,” he pointed out.

The Zixi solution allows it to target specific MVPDs and “message them accordingly,” he said.

Also, “we have better access and control of our service” with Zixi’s solution, he said. “We can actually see the network traffic [and] we can determine if a particular” integrated receiver decoder (IRD) “at an MVPD head end is having trouble or disconnected and we can take corrective action even prior to the MVPD noticing that there is an issue,” he pointed out.

Music Choice was also “able to leverage the equipment that we already had deployed in the field so it’s not as if we had to replace all that equipment,” which would have been costly, he told viewers, adding: Music Choice was able to take its Harmonic IRDs and, “with a simple firmware upgrade, enable the Zixi SDK that enable that device to take the signal.”

The Zixi solution gives Music Choice a lot of flexibility with the monitoring and services it provides and also gives it “an alternative way to monetize our service,” he said.

Eyeing a future benefit, he said AI that Zixi is working on “helps anticipate potential network problems.”

Technical hurdles were small for Music Choice during the transition to Zixi’s SDVP, he went on to say, noting “the technology is not difficult at all.”

In fact, “the hardest part of the transitioning was the project management aspect of it from the perspective of communicating with the MVPDs,” he told viewers. Music Choice does business with about 200 of them in the U.S., so it had to communicate with all of them ahead of the launch, he said.