Blog | Content & Streaming Providers
September 22, 2020

Taking Control of Regionalization with SCTE 224

Andy Warman

Media and entertainment companies around the world deliver content to all screens that spans multiple time zones and regions. To create a more compelling viewing experience and keep viewers watching for longer, they may deliver time-delayed content across time zones and allow for local programs to be inserted in the regions they serve. There is a growing trend to add greater regionalization capabilities and make video consumption even more relevant to consumers in different geographies. The objective is to increase revenue from advertising and improve audience retention over time.

As the level of sophistication around controlling how a channel should be presented to the viewer increases, so to does the level of complexity. This covers a range of scenarios for how and when we want regions to behave differently from each other.

Examples include:

  • Event blackouts for viewers in certain regions are not entitled to see;
  • Content replacement using streams from other feeds;
  • Content insertion made specifically for a region that includes local native languages;
  • Dynamic ad insertion; and,
  • How to handle cases where viewers travel outside of their local area, but still want to watch the home channel on a mobile app.

Enabling Technology

As an industry, we can enable greater regionalization and have control of the process by using SCTE 224, an Event Scheduling Notification Interface (ESNI) standard that lets us describe what the audience for a channel can see over time. In other words, it creates the rules we need to control content access and therefore lets us address the complexities of managing regional content.

For a system to be practical, particularly at scale, it should be controlled centrally. This way, rules we want regional participants to follow can be pushed out to each region, so they know in advance what to do for each channel. Since SCTE 224 gives us a common format, the provider can automate its responses to these rules.

What is delivered by using SCTE 224 are trigger events that are sent in advance of the live stream for each channel. Each region is provided with its own specific set of trigger events it will use to implement the prescribed operations. These trigger events may be shared with other regions or may be unique to a region. SCTE 224 gives us the power to make these determinations. It also lets us make changes as needed, and post updates to affected regions immediately.

For the content originators, the result is that all content access rights are controlled centrally and made available to participants in a common form. This makes execution less prone to error since a common format is used by all participant regions.

While SCTE 224 defines how we want to manage the regions, we also need to associate this with video in the channels themselves. This is achieved using SCTE 35 in-band triggers — trigger data that is embedded in the stream carrying the channel. Triggers define exactly when an event needs to take place. When an SCTE 35 trigger arrives, it can be matched with the rule provided by SCTE 224 to ensure the system takes the correct action at that time. The benefit of this method is it accurately aligns the rules we want to enforce with the video and creates a clean viewing experience for consumers.

Enabling Workflows with Comcast Technology Solutions

Comcast Technology Solutions is uniquely positioned to enable practical and powerful solutions for regionalization in support of hundreds of channels and all the regions in your network. This includes the ecosystem used to enable the system at each regional participant so that IRDs switch to the correct sources, blackouts are applied, DAI is triggered, and users watch the right variant of a channel for their current location.

Our solution is provided as a SaaS (Software as a Service), running in the public cloud, minimizing the need for physical hardware, and making it quick to start using and implementing. By normalizing all sources that drive your system to a standard SCTE 224 format, we make it easy to set up and fine tune each region. This includes defining regions by zip code, setting the rules for channel access and interaction with dynamic ad insertion. As your needs change over time, it’s simple to make changes and roll them out immediately across your whole network.

With Comcast Technology Solutions, you have a powerful and flexible way to implement regionalization that can be managed from anywhere with an internet connection.