As part of a plan to dramatically expand its HD video-on-demand content and to eventually launch a Start Over type service, Buckeye Cablevision has upgraded its SeaChange VOD infrastructure with new SeaChange software and flash memory servers.
The upgrade significantly increases its storage capacity to about 8,000 hours and will allow the network to handle 5,500 to 5,600 streams, “which is a pretty good jump from where we were originally,” said Jim Brown, director of engineering at the Ohio-based MSO.
Buckeye has about 130,000 customers in the Toledo, Ohio, area and another 20,000 customers in a sister system in the Sandusky, Ohio, area.
Buckeye currently offers about 45 hours of HD content on demand but plans to expand that exponentially in the future to about 15 to 20% of its VOD content hours. The system has also been expanding its HD linear content. Currently the operator has 43 linear high-def networks with plans to add 15 to 25 channels over the next 9 to 12 months.
Buckeye used SeaChange to first deploy VOD in 2004 and with the upgrade is using SeaChange MediaServer FMS 200 flash memory-based servers as well as SeaChange’s HDS 601 hybrid disk-based servers. It has also upgraded to the newest version of SeaChange’s Axiom On Demand software to manage to VOD offering.
Brown cited the efficiencies of the flash-based servers and the fact that they wouldn’t have to do any additional back office work to integrate the system with their billing and reporting systems as key reasons for sticking with the SeaChange platform.
He also noted that the flash based servers will provide them with “high-end ingest capability for Start Over type services” and perhaps further down the road for network DVRS.
While Buckeye’s systems are all at 860Mhz, the operator has been exploring a variety of options to free up bandwidth for more HD content, including reclaiming analog spectrum, pushing fiber deeper to the home and switched digital, which Brown expects them to deploy in 2009.
The system has also been looking at their options for using MPEG-4 when those boxes become available and has been studying the possibility of finding some multiplexing efficiencies that would free up bandwidth for more HD content.
“We’re being very cautious because we don’t want to create any quality perception problems,” Brown said. “We’ve already seen some of those problems with multiplexing HD content hit the trades a few times and we don’t want to step into that arena.”
The operator has also explored going all digital but for the moment is not pursuing that option. “Though we looked at it very closely, it is not on our radar, at least for 2009,” he said. “Even though it offers the biggest bang for the buck spectrum-wise, there are some downsides from a customer service perspective and it is certainly not inexpensive.”