Channel in a box

A single solution that automates the compilation and playout of program, commercial and promotional material to be sent to the transmitter or delivered via any other broadcast medium, such as the internet. As the name implies, the purpose is to provide all the functions needed for placing a program on air in a single ‘personal computer’ box, running standard operating systems. The long term aim was to create a software solution that runs on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware, thus providing broadcast performance at a fraction of the usual cost.

At the start, in the 1990s, personal computers had a small fraction of the power they provide today. Initially CiaB users were generally small or start-up TV channels or disaster recovery operations. Some functions, such as graphics and video input and output, had to be handled by special cards within the box. Also working with the many different file types used for delivering the material meant that it was often a challenge to play out the material from the box.

Today, the long-term aim has been reached. Computers can offer the power to handle all the required functions in software, except the basics of video in and out, for multiple channels of HD, if required. CiaB offerings range from simple solutions providing automation and playout of video, channel branding and captions to the most fully featured including rich graphics, comprehensive audio handling including Dolby and insertion of ancillary and signaling data for use downstream by other devices as well as many other features found more traditionally in the broadcast chain.

Also the CiaB customer base has expanded from a small market of low-cost start-ups, which it still serves, to include the mainstream business of serving all sizes and types of broadcasters.