Cablecast Bringing Easy Online and OTT Video Publishing to AV Users at InfoComm 2019

Cablecast Community Media is heading to InfoComm2019 with an efficient new solution that lets video producers easily build a library of VOD and live-streaming content, and presents it attractively in controlled, customizable interfaces for online or OTT viewing. Cablecast will demonstrate the automated and intuitive offering in the booth (number 333) of fellow Tightrope Media Systems division Carousel Digital Signage at the event, taking place June 12-14 in Orlando, Florida.

The Cablecast platform’s streamlined, automated publishing workflows enable users in educational institutions, houses of worship, government agencies, corporations and non-profit organizations to easily bring video-on-demand (VOD) programming and live streams to audiences across an expanding array of viewing devices. Users can customize Cablecast’s professionally-styled, pre-built website and OTT app templates with their own logo, color scheme and content categories to quickly launch full-featured, branded content portals on the web, Apple TV® and Roku® devices. A comprehensive API is also available for customers wishing to tightly integrate Cablecast’s video presentation features within their existing website.

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Adding new VOD content to the library is exceptionally simple. Authorized contributors can upload video files from anywhere through Cablecast’s web-based interface. Users can associate metadata with each clip during the upload process or after-the-fact, and can select amongst multiple frames from the video or upload a thumbnail image to represent the clip in the library. Cablecast automatically takes care of the rest, transcoding the source file as necessary for streaming and OTT delivery;dynamically updating the categorized libraries based on previously-defined metadata criteria; and publishing the clips to the public-facing website and OTT apps.

Further improving the viewer experience, VOD chapter markers can be added to pre-recorded clips or in real-time during live capture, enabling viewers to jump directly to points of interest – such as agenda topics in government meetings, or scoring plays in sports matches – without scrubbing through the entire video. Supporting documents can also be associated with VOD clips, enabling viewers to read or download related materials such as meeting minutes or lecture notes while watching the video.

Augmenting customers’ VOD offerings, Cablecast’s optional live streaming support enables users to stream programs and events in real time through the same web portal and OTT apps. Live and on-demand OTT content are delivered to viewers via the cloud-based Cablecast Reflect streaming service, while online content can be distributed through Cablecast Reflect to minimize local network bandwidth impact or using the customer’s own hosting infrastructure.

Cablecast’s content presentation environment gives publishers far more control of their viewers’ experience than is available with popular web-based or social media distribution platforms. Unlike such free services, Cablecast does not insert advertising in front of videos, nor suggest third-party content afterwards. This ensures that customers’ programming is not shown alongside any unrelated, inappropriate, competitive, or – particularly noteworthy for public sector producers – commercial content.

“As the volume of live and on-demand video content being created by educational, government, corporate and worship media producers continues to explode, they need efficient tools to distribute it to viewers’ preferred devices while maintaining control of the presentation around their brand,” said Steve Israelsky, President, Cablecast Community Media. “Cablecast’s turnkey online and OTT templates save customers time and help them create a professional look, while our automated publishing workflows reduce turnaround time and minimize manual effort. Our latest offerings build on our more than two decades of experience in helping community media providers and content producers stay ahead of evolving trends in media consumption, and we’re excited to showcase them to InfoComm attendees.”

 

Cablecast Community Media Amplifies Versatility and Cost Savings with Launch of Next-Generation Video Servers

Tightrope Media Systems today announced the new Cablecast VIO family, the latest generation of multi-format video servers for the highly-acclaimed Cablecast Community Media platform. First previewed at the 2019 NAB Show earlier this month, the new servers expand on the versatility, efficiency and cost-effectiveness of preceding models by consolidating more of the platform’s rich functionality into a single hardware unit and offering broader live and file-based native format support.

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Cablecast VIO provides a powerful and reliable foundation for station automation, playout, branding and multi-platform content distribution. Users can take complete control of content scheduling, publishing and playout from anywhere, on any device, through an intuitive, web-based interface. The Cablecast VIO series amplifies the Cablecast platform’s efficient workflow integration by enabling more of its software options to run together on just one server, significantly lowering hardware costs while minimizing space, power, cooling and maintenance requirements.

Most notably, broadcasters can now operate their community bulletin boards on the same server that powers their scheduling, automation and playout. Each Cablecast VIO server can run multiple instances of Cablecast CG, the broadcast-optimized bulletin board software based on the Carousel digital signage engine.

“While Cablecast has long offered seamless workflow integration between its automation and bulletin board capabilities, customers previously deployed our bulletin board software on separate hardware,” said Steve Israelsky, President, Cablecast Community Media. “With Cablecast VIO, stations can add Cablecast CG software for each channel’s bulletin board directly within their playout and automation server, reducing both equipment and operating costs. Bringing the bulletin board software onto the same system as channel playout and on-air graphics such as live branding and crawls will also enable new software capabilities and efficiencies in the future.”

The Cablecast VIO series further minimizes hardware requirements by delivering increased channel density. The flagship Cablecast VIO 4 Plus model provides six SDI interfaces that can be configured as four outputs with two recording channels, or as three inputs and three outputs. “This is perfect for PEG broadcasters with public, education and government access offerings, as they can run all three channels and their bulletin boards on one server, significantly reducing the overall system price,” added Israelsky.

Cablecast VIO’s extensive baseband I/O is complemented by support for live, IP-based inputs. Building on the RTP stream input feature first introduced on Cablecast Flex servers, Cablecast VIO can ingest live, H.264-encoded RTP, RTMP or HLS streams without needing an external decoder or consuming an SDI interface. Users can bring in live feeds of events such as council meetings and sports from remote sites over an IP network, or pull in sources such as YouTube or Facebook Live streams for integration into their channels.

Cablecast VIO video servers also expand on the Cablecast family’s renowned multi-format playout capabilities, which enable media files encoded in a wide variety of formats to be directly played out without transcoding. New codec compatibility including VP8 and Theora combines with support for non-broadcast-standard frame rates to enable easy use of Internet-originated content. Cablecast VIO also adds space-efficient H.264 encoding for channel recording, reducing storage consumption to maximize available recording time while maintaining stellar visual quality.

Additional Cablecast VIO models offer optimized configurations for customers with lower channel requirements than the Cablecast VIO 4 Plus. Cablecast VIO Lite includes 8TB of storage and two SDI interfaces, which can be configured as two outputs or one input and one output. The Cablecast VIO 2 features the same I/O capabilities as Cablecast VIO Lite but includes from 10TB to 40TB of storage, while the Cablecast VIO 4 provides four SDI channels that can be flexibly configured as either inputs or outputs. All of the above models include the latest version of the Cablecast Broadcast Automation software, with Cablecast CG available as an option. For users without automation and playout requirements, the specialized Cablecast VIO CG model sports the same hardware as Cablecast Lite for dedicated bulletin board applications.

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Tightrope’s Cablecast Community Media to Preview New Direct-to-VOD OTT Workflow at 2019 NAB Show

Visitors to Tightrope Media Systems’ 2019 NAB Show suite at the Renaissance Las Vegas Hotel (Hospitality Suite 739) can experience a sneak preview of upcoming direct-to-consumer publishing features that bring the Cablecast Community Media platform’s rich online and OTT distribution capabilities to a broader range of content producers. Building on Cablecast’s robust, efficient workflow for automating everything from cable playback to streaming delivery, version 6.7 brings turnkey VOD and live stream publishing for the web and OTT to customers such as schools and local governments even if they don’t operate a cable channel. Significantly, Cablecast 6.7’s publishing workflows enable users to maintain control of the presentation of their content in ways not possible with popular third-party services.

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The new standalone online and OTT publishing capabilities continue the company’s proven history of empowering community content providers with streamlined workflows for reaching ‘cord-cutters’ and other audiences on non-traditional viewing devices. Recent Cablecast multi-platform delivery advances included last year’s release of Cablecast Screenweave for effortlessly reaching users of popular OTT player appliances, and enhanced-quality 1080p adaptive bitrate VOD and live streaming delivery.

“For many years, we have been building up our turnkey web video features and Cablecast Reflect content delivery network to help traditional community cable broadcasters keep up with growing trends in on-demand and streaming consumption,” said Steve Israelsky, President, Cablecast Community Media. “For stations that are restricted to SD cable distribution and omitted from electronic program guides, our online and OTT features have given them feature and video quality parity with major commercial networks. But content creation and distribution has become such an important part of every industry and institution that with version 6.7, we want to help more new content providers be successful – even those without cable channels.”

Cablecast 6.7’s new digital file upload feature enables content managers to copy media files onto their server from anywhere. Combining previously separate operational steps, users can add metadata information at the same time they submit the content files through a single, unified interface page. Meanwhile, a new thumbnail selection feature lets users scrub through their video clip to select a promotional image for display in program schedules on Cablecast-powered public websites and VOD content libraries – thus ensuring a professional look while avoiding the need to create or upload an external graphic.

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Unlike most popular, free, web-based distribution platforms, Cablecast’s online and OTT content presentations do not insert unwanted advertising in front of producers’ videos, nor suggest third-party content – completely out of the control of the producer – to viewers upon completion of the program.

“This is important for government and educational customers who don’t want unrelated, problematic, or commercial content being shown in conjunction with a city council meeting or daily lesson,” explained Israelsky.

Cablecast 6.7 with the new standalone VOD publishing functionality is slated for release in May. Content producers and community broadcasters interested in version 6.7 or other new Cablecast introductions can schedule an NAB Show meeting with the Cablecast Community Media team.

“Combining these new features with our turnkey website and OTT publishing tools for dynamically updating content libraries, version 6.7 offers a very compelling alternative to other web-based video distribution options,” concluded Israelsky. “We’re excited to let people get their hands on it at the NAB Show, and for them to provide us with feedback as we finalize it.”

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Cablecast Community Media Platform Simplifies Workflows and Frees Staff from Mundane Tasks at MVCC

Miami Valley Communications Council (MVCC) in Centerville, Ohio is a municipal communications and technology organization that represents eight member cities in the area, and holds affiliate agreements with 23 other Miami Valley cities. Upgrading its master control and playout infrastructure to high definition while replacing decade-old legacy equipment, the council selected the Cablecast Community Media Platform from Tightrope Media Systems as the foundation of its enhanced operations.

MVCC was formed in 1975 to oversee cable television franchise agreements, manage the operation of the council’s cable access television channels, and lead intergovernmental projects designed to strengthen communications between member cities and their citizens. The council operates four PEG channels – two government channels, one educational access channel and one public access channel – while offering state-of-the-art production facilities, equipment and training to residents of its member cities.

While limited to broadcasting in SD for cable distribution, MVCC had higher ambitions for its online presence. “We wanted to upgrade to HD for our online VOD and eventually our live streams,” explained Nick Evert, MVCC’s chief engineer. “We also wanted a system that would simplify our file-based workflows and integrate better with our website offering.”

MVCC purchased the Cablecast Broadcast Automation software and two quad-channel Cablecast Flex 4 playout servers, configured to provide one recording input and one playout pathway for each of the council’s four cable channels. A Cablecast Pro VOD server automatically creates on-demand clips of the station’s programs, which are then delivered to viewers through the cloud-based Cablecast Reflect service. Four Tightrope Carousel systems drive independent bulletin boards on each channel. Supplied by systems integrator iVideo Technologies (known at the time as Industrial Video), the new installation went live at MVCC in September 2018.

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In choosing the Cablecast platform, Tightrope’s expertise was as important to MVCC as the solution itself.

“The number one thing for myself and our recently-retired programmer was the background of the company,” said Evert. “Tightrope staff all seem to have a good knowledge of the PEG channel world, with many of them coming from a PEG background. Their receptiveness to the particular challenges of a government-run media center was really appealing.”

Cablecast’s browser-based architecture was similarly attractive.

“Unlike our previous system, people can now be working simultaneously on various machines over the network at the same or different times, without being tied to a specific workstation,” Evert explained. “Plus, I don’t need to keep updating software versions on multiple machines to stay current.”

Beyond its browser-based flexibility, the operational ease of Cablecast’s user interface itself has earned Evert’s praise.

“With our previous system, a lot of functions were counter-intuitive and confusing,” he said. “The Cablecast interface is much more intuitive and modern, and you get a lot better feedback from the software when you’re working.”

Cablecast’s elegant media handling capabilities save MVCC staff valuable time that they can put to better use.

“With our old system, we had to FTP files around a lot, moving them to and from a NAS,” recalled Evert. “With Cablecast, we have all of our media live on the server. Instead of spending time queuing things up and on routine operational tasks, employees are freed up to do things like developing better bulletin board graphics and polishing things up a little bit more.”

Cablecast’s tight bulletin board integration has brought similar gains.

“The schedule integration benefits are huge,” said Evert. “With our old system, staff would get an email or printout of the schedule, and need to retype it into our bulletin board software. Now as soon as we’ve scheduled the show, it’s handled automatically, completely eliminating that work.”

In addition to the Cablecast platform itself, Evert has also been impressed with Tightrope personnel.

“I can’t say enough about the receptiveness that they have to new ideas and features,” he praised. “You work with any system day in and day out, inevitably you’ll have ideas of something new you wish it could do. Not every manufacturer will truly listen to your requests and discuss them with their development team. I think that’s huge.”

MVCC’s future plans include adding Cablecast Live systems for HD live streaming, and updating the video content area of their website using Cablecast’s dynamic, turnkey “public site” web publishing tools. But in the meantime, the platform continues to deliver the benefits the council sought.

“Cablecast has simplified our master control workflow, and allows our staff to allocate more of their time to refinement of our channels,” summarized Evert. “It is a solid, all-in-one kind of solution, which is exactly what is needed for a PEG facility like ours.”

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New Cablecast Community Media Platform Upgrade Speeds and Simplifies Scheduling with Enhanced Automation

Tightrope Media Systems today unleashed a significant new software upgrade for its Cablecast Community Media broadcast automation, playout and publishing platform. Cablecast 6.6 expands the system’s powerful features for automating repetitive scheduling tasks, thus speeding and simplifying day-to-day programming operations for community TV broadcasters. The new version will be demonstrated in the company’s suite at the Renaissance Las Vegas Hotel (Ren Exhibitor C) at the upcoming 2019 NAB Show, taking place April 8-11.

“While our recent software upgrades have added features to help PEG stations expand their reach and better engage their audiences through online and OTT delivery, version 6.6 is all about the core scheduling tasks that community TV programmers deal with every day,” said Michelle Alimoradi, Marketing Manager, Cablecast Community Media. “Users switching to Cablecast from other systems have always been delighted by the time savings it offered, but we wanted to take it even further. Our goal with this release is to help them complete their scheduling in as little as half the time, by eliminating tedious, repetitious actions.”

The new Gap Filler tool intelligently fills breaks between shows with content beyond just the channel’s community bulletin board. Short-form videos such as public service announcements and event promos are intrinsic to community TV programming but are very tedious to schedule individually. With Cablecast 6.6, programmers can click on a gap in the schedule and select a saved search comprised of short-form content. Gap Filler will then automatically calculate and schedule the appropriate clips from that search to best fill the gap’s duration. Users can define intro and outro messages – such as station IDs – to bracket the gap, while options such as “Do Not Allow Repeats” ensure that viewers don’t simply see the same short-form clips over and over.

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The new Auto-Scheduler feature automatically populates recurring time slots, sparing programmers from needing to schedule each episode individually. Users can define recurring time slots indefinitely into the future and set the Auto-Scheduler to dynamically populate them with the most recent show from a specified project, continually updating the schedule with the latest episode – a massive time-saver for customers running daily shows such as “Democracy Now!” Programmers also have the option of intentionally repeating a single show across all recurring slots and can flexibly override automatically-scheduled entries if they wish, with an event log reporting any such edits that superseded the defined rule.

The Gap Filler and Auto-Scheduler features both take advantage of Cablecast 6.6’s new allowable date range parameters. Start and/or end dates can be set for each show to define when the content is permitted to be broadcast – thereby preventing programs from being shown too soon or after they are no longer relevant, such as promos for past events or last month’s city council meeting. Gap Filler and Auto-Scheduler will automatically exclude any videos that would be outside their allowed date range, while users who attempt to manually schedule a clip for a prohibited date will receive a warning in the scheduling interface.

“We have always designed Cablecast to be like having a savvy, reliable, additional staff member at customers’ stations,” said Alimoradi. “You want to be able to train it, and then just let it do its thing. Version 6.6 makes the system an even more valuable team member, automatically filling up the channels’ schedule to free up real staff members’ calendars. By helping users do their scheduling faster, Cablecast gives them more time to create great content.”

The Cablecast 6.6 upgrade will be available at the end of February, and will be free for Cablecast customers on active support agreements.

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Cablecast Community Media Platform Simplifies Operations and Enables Superior Online Offerings for Billerica Access Television

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.

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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.”

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Boothbay Region Community Television Reignites Itself through Live Streaming with Cablecast Community Media Platform

First established in 1995 as an ad hoc committee of the Boothbay Harbor town government, Boothbay Region Community Television (BRCTV) inspires, educates and facilitates video and filmmaking not only in the Boothbay Region, but across the entire state of Maine. When the station set out to refresh and reinvent itself last year with an emphasis on live streaming, they chose the Cablecast Community Media platform and Cablecast Reflect cloud-based stream delivery service from Tightrope Media Systems as the linchpins of its operations.

“Public access television in our town started as all-volunteer, but had evolved to a full-time person doing most of the film-making, which made it more like commercial TV than community media,” said Cody Mitchell, station manager and director of photography at BRCTV. “In the last 18 months, we’ve undergone a major change in character and mission, with a renewed emphasis on volunteerism. Technology has also advanced significantly in the last five years, so while we still broadcast on Spectrum, we’ve chosen to make live streaming our bread and butter. I’m part of the younger age group that isn’t watching cable but should still be able to watch public access. For BRCTV, live streaming isn’t just an adjunct to our cable channel – it’s our primary medium.”

When Mitchell and the new board of directors came in to revitalize BRCTV, the station had no dedicated studio space nor scheduling system for their broadcasts; its pre-millennial automation system was no longer usable, so DVDs were being burned weekly and played out in a loop. Mitchell wanted the station’s new infrastructure to be designed around their fresh live streaming focus, while giving BRCTV the foundation to re-engage their community.

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“We wanted the tools to do it right, enabling professional-looking results that show our value to the community,” he said.

BRCTV purchased a Cablecast Flex Lite playout server, Cablecast Live streaming system and Carousel bulletin board system from reseller Headlight Audio Visual. Beyond meeting the station’s live streaming requirements, Mitchell also found the platform’s easy-to-use scheduling and automation capabilities ideal for their volunteer-run operations.

“Cablecast fit our workflow really well,” he explained. “The intuitive scheduling interface is great, and has a lot of tools that really help us manage the maddening puzzle of fitting all of our programming pieces together. Being able to access the system remotely through the web-based interface is fantastic, as the volunteers I assign to do scheduling and manage Carousel can do so from home any time they want. Multiple volunteers can even work on different parts of the schedule at the same time.”

BRCTV’s Cablecast Live server automatically creates bandwidth-efficient H.264 streams in high definition and sends them to the Cablecast Reflect service for delivery to viewers through the station’s website and custom-coded Apple TV and Roku channels.

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“We have 35Mbps fiber Internet connectivity, but that can be chewed up really quickly by live streams of a sensational government meeting or other popular program,” explained Mitchell. “Our streaming must be reliable, or the community won’t embrace it. We had made previous attempts at smartphone delivery that didn’t work out, but with Cablecast Reflect we’ve been very successful right out of the gate. It’s been very dependable while also being very affordable for live linear streaming.”

Mitchell lauds the graphic overlay capabilities of the Cablecast Flex server as another favorite feature.

“We use crawls and bugs a lot,” he explained. “Most PEG stations use only the traditional slide-based bulletin board model for announcements. While we do some of that too through Cablecast’s tight integration with Carousel, we often use crawls instead to present announcements during peak times and during live programs. I feel that’s far more effective than typical static slides, and because it’s seamlessly integrated within Cablecast, we don’t need the expense or maintenance overhead of separate graphic overlay equipment.”

Mitchell’s satisfaction with Cablecast extends to the team that created and stands behind the product.

“I really like the company,” he praised. “It’s not like dealing with a massive global conglomerate, where you’re on the phone for four hours to solve even a simple problem. You have personal support contacts, and they do a great job of communicating their roadmap. That transparency helps me plan what I’m doing around what they’ve got coming.”

Summarizing the benefits that the Cablecast platform has delivered for BRCTV, Mitchell points back to the station’s volunteer-centric mantra.

“Our station is run by the community, not a broadcast engineer,” he said. “Cablecast has turned our station into a professional-grade operation through a comprehensive, simple-to-use, tightly-integrated system that is very easy for our volunteers to help run. Our investment has paid off already.”

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