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Keeping Up

Posted on Nov 7, 2023 by FEED Staff

In an evolving industry, it’s crucial to keep customers current – whether it’s the latest and greatest equipment or the most attentive service. Pebble specialises in both

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We hear it all the time: automation. With advances in broadcast tech and demand for greater efficiency, essentially every aspect of production has seen a shift towards automation – playout included.

For over two decades, Pebble has provided playout services, specialising in real-time, software-based solutions for the ‘most demanding broadcasts’, according to Neil Maycock, chief commercial officer. In the company’s  years of business, it’s seen significant changes in consumer behaviour – particularly a move from traditional models of distribution towards VOD.

“One of the biggest challenges in the broadcast industry is balancing the growing digital VOD market and the traditional linear television market,” explains Maycock. “In many cases,” he says, “digital services are growing quickly in terms of revenue, but most are still loss making. Contrast that with linear, where there is minimal growth or even decline in advertising and subscriptions, but margins are strong, and these services are profitable.

“For the playout market specifically, broadcasters are looking to optimise their investment in linear services,” continues Maycock. “They’re seeking greater automation – and technology which can be deployed on cost-effective, hybrid infrastructures.”


Playout automation is what it sounds like: “executing a time-based schedule of content, including programming and commercials,” states Maycock. When live elements are introduced, the simple concept becomes slightly more complex. “Playout systems must react to frequent, often short-notice changes – for example, ensuring commercial breaks don’t clash with critical moments in the live action.”

Pebble Automation simplifies live playout with context-based rules, continuous media validation, high-res pre-viewing and more. In the interest of always facing forward, Pebble recently announced a partnership with Op2mise, “which uses AI to help generate automated FAST channel schedules,” describes Maycock.


It’s key to stay with the times. Pebble does this in two ways, according to Maycock: “Maintaining an active R&D roadmap and providing proactive and engaged customer support.

“Systems such as playout often have evolving needs throughout their lifetime, to cater for programming or presentation styles,” adds Maycock. “Fundamentals – such as supporting the latest operating systems and security – are key for mission-critical systems.” At Pebble, investing in a technology means investing in the future, not just the needs of today.

Customer service is equally important. “It isn’t sufficient to install a system and not communicate with a customer until they contact support with a fault,” argues Maycock. He suggests regular contact to ensure the ‘optimum experience’ and a positive, personal relationship – something Pebble prioritises.

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Originally published in the Winter 2023 issue of FEED.

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