Like many of its peers, non-profit public, educational and government (PEG) access broadcaster Billerica Access Television (BATV) is adapting to the evolving media landscape in which many consumers are cutting the cord and no longer watching cable. When the station replaced its aging automation and playout system, they selected the Cablecast Community Media platform from Tightrope Media Systems to streamline their workflows and expand their online offerings.
“Our overarching goal was to upgrade to HD, and enhancing our streaming capabilities was a big part of that,” said Kayla Creamer, programming coordinator at Billerica Access Television. “While we can only broadcast our cable channel in SD today, we wanted to be HD-ready for our next round of cable negotiations, and to start streaming in HD immediately. We wanted to improve our online audience’s viewing experiences, delivering our content through a better interface while also offering live streaming of all three of our channels for the first time.”
Creamer was familiar with Cablecast from her time working at another PEG station, and was impressed by ongoing advancements in the platform. “The intuitive operator interface was a key factor in our decision,” she recalled. “I had seen what Tightrope was adding to Cablecast, and I knew that it would be much faster and easier for me than BATV’s previous system. We also liked Cablecast’s public-facing VOD presentation the best of all the solutions we looked at, and its integrated publishing workflow lets me make our content available online without additional work.”
BATV deployed Cablecast Flex 4 and Flex Lite video servers; Cablecast Live and Cablecast VOD solutions for creating live streams and on-demand clips; and the cloud-based Cablecast Reflect service for reliably delivering content to web and mobile viewers. Tightrope’s Carousel software powers the community bulletin board shown on all three channels between programs.
Creamer lauds Cablecast’s advanced scheduling capabilities as delivering valuable time savings. “Cablecast has features that help me do batch and block scheduling a lot quicker than our previous system,” she explained. “For example, in Cablecast I can schedule our recurring shows out 12 months at a time with placeholder files, then find and replace those placeholders when the actual content is available. That has streamlined my workflow a lot, taking me just a few clicks for something that would have taken me a lot longer to do in our previous system.”
BATV is using new features in the recent Cablecast 6.4 software upgrade to further enhance its online user experiences beyond the possibilities of traditional television. “We’re taking advantage of the new embeddable agenda feature to complement our streamed videos with related documents,” said Creamer.
“We’re using it for all types of shows, not just associating minutes and agendas with government meetings. Producers of studio programs can also provide supplemental content that is too wordy to put on-screen during the show; the program host can then let viewers know that the additional material is available with the online VOD clip to read it at their own pace. It’s a really great addition to Cablecast’s VOD delivery capabilities.”
The Cablecast-enabled improvements in BATV’s online presence have led to a shift in how the station promotes itself. “We have started encouraging people to watch our live channels online,” explained Creamer. “We’re currently only able to offer SD on cable but our HD streams look beautiful, and we want viewers see our content at its best.”
As audience viewing habits continue to evolve, the station is adding more Cablecast services to reach viewers the way they prefer. “We recently added Cablecast Screenweave to bring our live channels and VOD content to Apple TV and Roku devices,” said Creamer. “With OTT we can reach viewers in their living rooms without cable subscriptions, and Cablecast Screenweave makes it simple for us to bring our content to OTT streaming devices.”
Creamer also praises the community-like nature of the Cablecast ecosystem and Tightrope personnel. “I love the accessibility of engineers and staff at Tightrope,” she said. “They come out to conferences and hold user groups. We get to talk to our peers in the user community and the people who design the software, and they’re always willing to listen to our feedback.”
From enhanced online experiences to improved workflow efficiency, Cablecast has met all of BATV’s objectives. “We have been very happy with our transition to the Cablecast platform,” said Creamer. “The streamlined workflow makes a big difference to me, giving me more time to do other programming-related or production tasks that I didn’t have time for before. Cablecast has also allowed us to offer new, high-quality viewing options to our community, which is great for both ourselves and the public we serve.”