Digital linear channel creation: To FAST platforms and beyond!

April 8, 2024 by Rick Young, SVP, Head of Global Products

One of the biggest challenges facing media companies is finding ways to quickly and cost-effectively deliver new channels — or new flavors of existing channels — without significant increases in headcount or investment in new technology infrastructure. We speak about this with customers every day — we know it matters.

Major broadcasters, sports networks, and streaming services understand the need to scale their live channel offering to engage new audiences amid a proliferation of viewing platforms. The tricky part is trying to rightsize the cost of creating new digital linear channels against the expected revenue returns from highly segmented audiences. At the same time, pure “experimentation” in the digital arena doesn’t cut it anymore. Ambitious players need to see genuine revenue generation across all traditional linear and digital products to meet profitability targets and ensure sustainable business growth.

It’s within this context that the value of LIVE has never been more apparent. Media businesses all understand that live is the most compelling and valuable form of content. Live content draws viewers onto new platforms. It keeps them tuned in — and signed up. Traditional media organizations and digital-native players are looking for ways to bring their best live events and linear channel experiences onto digital and FAST platforms. Meanwhile, the convergence of traditional television and streaming is presenting blurred lines and evolving definitions around linear channels and an ever-expanding ecosystem of digital platforms.

One reality remains clear: Media organizations need their new digital-first channels to engage the widest audience possible with fresh, live content. Robust IP-based technology, global reach, and the power of automation are enabling them to do that. Here’s how we’re helping at LTN:

Keeping up to speed to drive success on FAST platforms

Let’s face it, long-standing perceptions around the potential of FAST channels have been centered on using FAST as a secondary viewing option, where content owners could distribute archived programming to generate modest advertising revenues. While the core value proposition of FAST — as an auxiliary distribution model to maximize ROI on existing content libraries — remains valid, times are changing. Viewer expectations have shifted, and they keep shifting. Today’s audiences — particularly digital-native viewers — demand fresh, live, relevant content experiences. Media companies need to create more compelling content propositions to attract the scale of audiences required on FAST platforms to really move the needle in terms of ad revenue.

True to its name, success in the FAST market also hinges on speed and time-to-market. Content owners want to create and deliver new FAST channels on the fly. That could mean launching a new digital linear channel tomorrow and replacing it with several different iterations next month.

Meanwhile, keeping up with a complex and rapidly expanding digital distribution landscape takes a lot of work. While facilitating seamless distribution to all of the most well-established FAST platforms, like Samsung TV Plus, Pluto TV, and Tubi, among others, is key, content owners also need the tools to deliver their digital linear channels to a variety of downstream platforms including MVPDs, vMVPDs, and even broadcast stations. Media businesses and platform operators of various flavors are looking for an effective conduit to bring channels originally destined for FAST to broader horizons and more traditional takers. And, likewise, we are seeing channels created for more traditional platforms giving up those business hybrid models for the targeted ad-supported only world of FAST. As a result, organizations are increasingly partnering with us to harness the industry-leading reach and reliability of the LTN Network — combined with our automated playout system, LTN Lift.

A digital-first playout system to power your LIVE linear channel

LTN Lift is custom-fit to precisely support the automated creation of new digital linear channels, enabling a rapid go-to-market timeline, the seamless integration of high-value live sports and news programming, and custom SCTE profiling for multi-platform monetization.

Here’s something we all know: Live sports, news, and events draw in viewers at scale and attract advertisers. Localized content experiences are also fundamental ingredients for building a compelling FAST offering. Regionally tailored news coverage, local sports, weather, and entertainment programming deepen audience engagement and reduce platform churn.

Now for something you might not have realized: Cost-efficiently bringing high-value live and local content to FAST channels isn’t as complicated as you may think. LTN Lift leverages automation to enable broadcasters to take a primary linear channel and seamlessly spin up secondary and tertiary tracks for FAST distribution — engaging audiences with live and local news, sports, or other high-value live content. Powered by ultra-low latency, deep levels of monitoring and visibility, and multi-user, multi-session support, LTN Lift provides operators with an intuitive, easy-to-use playout system that simplifies, scales, and enhances their live channel management capabilities.

Digital linear channel creation, powered by automation

Automation is mission-critical to driving operational efficiencies and securing cost benefits for media businesses. Minimizing the time and human effort spent on non-value added tasks opens up resources to invest in creativity and audience experiences. LTN’s uniquely integrated IP ecosystem approach harnesses automation to combine ultra-reliable global video transport with powerful channel creation, customization, and monetization capabilities.

Media companies looking for more intelligent, effective ways of creating and managing new digital linear channels are realizing that partnering with LTN unlocks a huge array of automation and previously unimaginable efficiencies that make their lives easier and their revenues healthier. LTN Lift offers a simple workflow to create new, tailored channels, automating the process of importing and exporting pre-defined playlists and seamlessly integrating with third-party channel management systems. LTN Lift makes managing and customizing a large portfolio of digital channels easy — along with comprehensive monitoring, visibility, and full compatibility across multiple file types, codecs, and cloud storage libraries.

Join a new breed of digital media innovators

We work with a number of major media companies and sports streaming services — many of whom are pioneering new linear channel methodologies across FAST and other digital platforms. Take our collaboration with ABC’s Owned Television Group, who has explored digital linear channel creation to bring localized, tailored news content experiences to growing digital audiences across new platforms. We also work with NBC 7 in San Diego to seamlessly spin up tailored segments of live and non-live programming to integrate within a third-party channel creation vendor. And it isn’t just live news finding a home on new platforms. DAZN is leveraging LTN Lift to create really unique sports and wagering channels for specialized platforms in Europe.

From a wider perspective, we’re seeing a huge amount of customer innovation around areas including digital channels for social media, wagering channels for betting audiences, and temporary pop-up channels to maximize engagement before, during, and after live events. The key ingredients helping bring these innovations together? Future-proof IP-based foundations, a highly flexible playout system, and a trusted technology partner.

If you’re interested in discussing how LTN can help scale your digital distribution across new frontiers, we’d love to hear from you. Learn more about our product showcase at NAB Show 2024 here.