Automation shortcomings with SCTE

By Todd Fantz  |  January 29, 2018

Crystal is often asked by broadcasters why they can’t implement SCTE by just using their automation system. The answer can involve several factors, depending on the automation system in question, but first and foremost, SCTE is never going to be an automation systems primary business. For an automation system it is often an afterthought, tacked on as a secondary event, even as static payloads. Implementations are often done with GPI, or serial ports and are not much more sophisticated than “I sent this.” Many automation systems are not capable of generating dynamic values, such as calculated durations, which are key to OTT and app driven features. In short, it is not in their expertise, nor their focus, and that is not going to change.

You also have to consider that there is a substantial investment in legacy playout systems. Between vendor consolidation, product versioning and the financial pressures that come from group mergers, there are a lot of online automation system’s that have little to no support, no active development but yet continue to be the backbone of major operations. These systems cannot have features added to them and are typically delicate as they are. Operators are justifiably reluctant to pay for, and risk, a new playout system just to gain a new feature.

Another factor, outside the control of the automation system, is the SCTE 104/35 standards themselves. These standards have gone through multiple revisions, and will have more in the future. Expecting an automation system to be compliant with one or more of these revisions, and to be timely with updates for future revisions is unrealistic. In addition, interpretation of the standards themselves have lead to very different implementations. This is ok if you control the whole path, but increasingly opportunities involve an operator having to provide SCTE to an external platform or platforms, and in the format the platform requires. Can your automation system support that?

Crystal Connect provides an intelligent software layer that can address all of these concerns. We can talk to legacy systems and produce rich, compliant SCTE 104/35 messaging based on the end platforms requirements. We can fix systems that produce incorrect or incomplete messages, or add a messaging layer to a system that does not support the feature at all. Crystal is an acknowledged expert in the field of SCTE messaging and it is our core focus. Before you try and make SCTE work with your automation system consider talking to us about how Crystal Connect can make SCTE work for you.

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