Charter Brings VOD Under One Roof

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Charter Communications has enlisted Ascent Media to manage video-on-demand distribution to about 30 headends across the U.S., using a centralized VOD architecture.

Under the terms of the multiyear contract, Ascent is handling the ingest of VOD assets to a central disk farm at Charter's St. Louis headquarters and then verifies delivery of the content to each of the MSO's local markets. At any one time, there are approximately 9,000 titles in the system.

"Ascent Media's VOD solutions give us more control over the digital flow of our on demand library and provide the groundwork to expand choices for our customers," Doug Ike, Charter's vice president of advanced video and applications engineering and development, said in a statement. "This new centralized architecture simplifies the tracking of our digital assets and makes VOD delivery more efficient and provides more choice and value for our customers."

Charter ingests content from six sources, transmitted over either satellite or an Internet connection, including Avail-TVN and Comcast Media Center.

Ascent Media's VOD Accelerator application uses Charter's backbone to distribute content, with Ascent edge devices running on HP servers in each market to monitor traffic and ensure the proper titles are being received. The Ascent software also supports the upload of local VOD content.

"The benefit is that it removes a lot of the capital and operating costs for each of Charter's markets," Ascent Media senior vice president Richard Fickle said. "It's a more scalable cost structure to operate VOD more profitably."

The system is not a content-distribution network, or CDN, in which the most popular content is cached at the edge of the network and long-tail content is streamed from a central facility. But Fickle said it could accommodate such a model.

About 30 Ascent employees assist in monitoring Charter's VOD distribution, freeing up Charter personnel for other tasks, Fickle said. Across its footprint, Charter uses a variety VOD servers, including those from Arris and Ericsson.

Ascent Media began cutting over Charter's VOD infrastructure in May and completed the transition to a fully centralized system last month. Fickle said Ascent Media is working with another cable operator on a similar deployment, but he wouldn't identify the other MSO.

The VOD Accelerator application runs on Oracle's database platform and is based on Ascent Media's Viia asset management system originally developed for Hollywood studios. In September, Ascent Media's digital asset management software won Oracle's Fusion middleware innovation partner award.

Santa Monica, Calif.-based Ascent Media, which operates 40 facilities worldwide, provides integrated, end-to-end services for the global digital media supply chain.

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