TECH SPOTLIGHT

Cox Takes Lead In BXF Implementation

Starting next month, Cox hopes to save itself time and money by implementing the BXF interface between traffic and master control at five stations including KTVU San Francisco. BXF promises to take the labor out of making on-the-fly changes to what spots air and when. “The pilot has gone very smoothly,” says project manager Chip Reif. “There are always issues that you discover along the way, but there have been no major problems.”

Two years ago, when SMPTE adopted the BXF standard for seamlessly interconnecting traffic and master control it was hailed as a “the Holy Grail.” TV stations would at last be able to make on-the-fly changes to what spots air and when, saving time and money and making happier account executives and advertisers.

Like the Holy Grail, the benefits of BXF, otherwise known as the broadcast exchange format, has proved somewhat elusive. Implementing the standard at TV stations has not been as easy or as speedy as some had thought. Installations are laborious, custom-engineered jobs.

But TV broadcasting will soon be getting a major application of the technology that may go a long way toward proving its worth.

After extensive testing at its KTVU San Francisco, Cox Media Group expects to roll out BXF at the Fox affiliate and four other stations next month — KIRO Seattle; WHIO Dayton, Ohio; WSOC Charlotte, N.C.; and WFTV Orlando, Fla. — according to Chip Reif, engineering manager at WFTV and the group-wide manager of the BXF project.

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Cox will have an all-Harris setup at the five stations. The Harris version of BXF, Live-Update, will link Harris ADC automation systems to Harris OSi-Traffic systems.

“The pilot has gone very smoothly,” Reif said. “There are always issues that you discover along the way, but there have been no major problems.”

BRAND CONNECTIONS

Early next year, if all continues to go well, Cox will introduce BXF at flagship WSB Atlanta and WPXI Pittsburgh, Reif said. Smaller stations in Cox’s 15-station group may not get BXF at all, since it mainly benefits larger stations with busier traffic schedules.

The benefits of BXF are clear, Reif says.

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“In most television stations, by 3 p.m., you essentially lock the log for the next day,” he said. “If a client really needs to change a commercial at the last minute, we can do it manually. We write the change on a piece of paper and hand it to master control and accounting.”

With BXF, Reif said, a change can be real-time or near real-time.

However, he added, some stations may not want to use the system in real-time because a spot may have not yet been received or ingested into the station’s playback system. That could lead to an on-air mistake.

Most stations that implement BXF may want to impose safeguards to prevent such errors. If it’s less than 30 minutes to air time, they could prohibit automatic changes, but continue to allow manual ones, he said.

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“The Live-Update system will tell the operator there’s a change. The operator can then determine if the newly requested media is available for air and make the appropriate decision.”

BXF is often confused with MXF. BXF is a separate protocol, but can coexist with MXF, the material eXchange format. The difference is BXF exchanges metadata as messages, while MXF is a wrapper that primarily exchanges pictures and sound along with metadata.

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