Digital Media Net - Your Gateway To Digital media Creation. News and information on Digital Video, VR, Animation, Visual Effects, Mac Based media. Post Production, CAD, Sound and Music

Cloud-Based Broadcast System Enables Akili Kids! to Stay On-Air, Educating Homebound Students During Covid Lockdown

Akili Kids! launched in Kenya on March 31, 2020, just weeks into the Covid 19 worldwide lockdown, and quickly became the most watched children’s channel in the country. Last month at the annual Kuza Broadcasting Awards ceremony, Akili Kids! received the Mzalendo Mkuu Award (Great Patriot Award) for airing educational TV content during the pandemic. What the founders of the Network could never have known in March of 2020 was just how timely and important their programming would be when Kenyan schools were shut down in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With schools closed and national curfews in place, life for Kenyan parents and their school-aged children was a daily challenge. The programming from start-up Akili Kids!, with a staff of only 21, filled an important void at a time when it was needed most. With the penetration of Internet access not even close to the levels found in the U.S, remote Zoom classes were not a viable option, making one-way, free-to-air television the best and most effective way to reach kids at home.

(left to right) standing — Nelly Rupande, Community Manager; sitting — Ruby Muthoni, Community Manager; standing — Lilian Kipsang, HR Manager; sitting — Eddie Olang, Head of Partnerships; sitting — Anne Sato, Scheduling Manager; standing — Samantha Mugeni, Senior Marketing Manager; standing — Joelle Schon, Editor; standing — Jeff Schon, C.E.O.; not shown – Jesse Soleil, President, Vinnie Grosso, CTO, and 16 additional members of the team

The Akili Network team had to quickly learn to build playlist logs, schedule promos, manage traffic and billing, and upload video content with the new PlayBox Neo Cloud2TV system. The ease of use of the platform helped the team get up to speed in a matter of days, broadcasting almost the moment they got the basic understanding of the system.

With the look of the channel created in-house, Akili Kids! broadcasted a carefully curated schedule of edutainment programming for early childhood to pre-teen audiences. Regional producers contributed programming with local themes, including Akili and Me, Ubongo Kids, N*Gen, My Better World, and The Hummingbird Tales, while Akili Network also developed in-house local programs including Boom na Wabi and A Day As.... These shows were combined with internationally distributed programming like Bob the Builder, WordGirl and Wild Kratts.

“We picked programming that would both entertain and educate,” says CEO Jeff Schon, “shows with reading, math or science themes or that promoted critical thinking or social-emotional skills. We recently produced a series featuring our viewers in A Day As…, which allows kids to explore careers.”

Using the PlayBox Neo Cloud2TV virtual channel playout system, Akili Kids! has two PlayBox Neo servers located at a data center in Nairobi with secure Internet access, which feed over-the-air transmitters throughout the country. According to Akili Network’s CTO, Vincent Grosso: “We initiated virtual operations almost from launch. Cloud2TV allows employees to work from home while keeping a first-rate look on the air.”

PlayBox Neo Cloud2TV is a cloud-based software-as-a-service system that lets broadcasters operate their playout channels from any location via an easy-to-use web interface. Content is uploaded to the playout server from Nairobi and New York over the Internet.

With the pandemic creating a countrywide lockdown, Akili Network’s scheduling and traffic teams had to access the system from home, using low bandwidth connections to build broadcast playlists. Commercials, promos, and content were uploaded by editors and program coordinators using local, often highly trafficked Internet connections. Content files, command and control, and QC came from New York.

“The biggest broadcast challenges Akili Kids! faced last year were related to marketing and promotions,” says Co-Founder Jesse Soleil. “We weren’t able to do any actual launch events, so had to rely on social media to build awareness, while being able to quickly update channel content to keep our rapidly growing audience surprised and delighted.”  Akili uploaded targeted promos every day commemorating local holidays and events. Customized clips were also edited daily. And an original series called “Birthday Blast” was started, which mentions by name hundreds of kids each week celebrating their birthday.

Akili Network staff can easily upload programs and promo files for ingestion from their homes, while the technical team monitors the playlists (logs) and health of the broadcast servers remotely. The PlayBox Neo servers are always accessible through the portal to ensure QC and broadcast control to the transmitters. Playlists can be uploaded weeks in advance so in case of any Internet outages, the server stays on air.

One of the most important factors in the technical success of this virtual workflow, according to Grosso, is the ability of employees to make critical last-minute changes to programming and operations using the available Internet they have at home. “Cloud2TV allows me to select high-bandwidth files over low bandwidth connections,” says Anne Sato, Akili Network’s Programming Manager. “I can change the broadcast playlist remotely when there is a last-minute schedule change.”

Kenya broadcasts are in the PAL broadcast standard, but Akili Network receives programming in multiple formats: American (NTSC), European (PAL), and regional (PAL); in multiple frame rates; and in various video file formats (i.e., MP4 and MOV).

The PlayBox Neo server plays out multiple video and audio formats into a single, seamless PAL 50 frame per second stream to the transmitters. This feature has significantly reduced transcoding costs by allowing the use of inexpensive software encoders.

Schon, Soleil and Grosso concede that launching a new TV network in a pandemic was stressful, but Akili Network significantly benefitted from the flexibility offered by the PlayBox Neo virtual operations system and will rely on it for the long term. Someone is on the system 24/7, says Grosso: “The sun never sets on Akili Network. When the team in Kenya is asleep, we’re working in the U.S. or somewhere else in the world.”

Schon adds, “Everyone worked so hard to make us the most trusted children’s and family brand in Kenya. To put it in context, more kids watch Akili Kids! in Kenya daily than any of the global children’s cable networks. We are humbled that the children of Kenya love Akili Kids! and they have made us the number one children’s channel in the country.”

rhoffman

Recent Posts

CYGNVS™推出首个网络危机准备和应对管理指导平台

该平台已拥有1,000家客户。CYGNVS™将在5,500万美元A轮融资的支持下扩大运营规模 加州洛思阿图斯--(BUSINESS WIRE)--(美国商业资讯)--今天,CYGNVS Inc.在完成5,500万美元A轮融资后高调登场,推出其开创性的引导式网络危机平台,旨在使组织能够在准备和应对任何网络危机时保持互联(Connected)、自信(Confident)、掌控(Control)和合规(Compliant)。 全球安全顾问、《纽约时报》畅销书《未来的犯罪》(Future Crimes)作者Marc Goodman表示:“无论在网络安全上投入多少资金,网络危机都是不可避免的,世界上的每一家组织都需要为这种可能发生的事件做好准备和计划。成功应对网络危机是非常复杂的,大多数受害者之所以失败,是因为他们在危机发生时才试图胡乱拼凑出应对措施。提前做好准备并制定切实可行的计划,对于任何组织的网络恢复能力都是至关重要的。” 当网络危机真正发生时,提前的准备和演练可以起到很大作用。根据《2022年数据泄露成本报告》(The Cost of Data Breach Report 2022)中的数据,准备和演练更充分的组织平均可节省138万美元的直接成本。 CYGNVS(CYber…

8 hours ago

CYGNVS™推出首個網路危機準備和應對管理指導平臺

該平臺已擁有1,000家客戶。CYGNVS™將在5,500萬美元A輪融資的支援下擴大營運規模 加州洛思阿圖斯--(BUSINESS WIRE)--(美國商業資訊)--今天,CYGNVS Inc.在完成5,500萬美元A輪融資後高調登場,推出其開創性的引導式網路危機平臺,旨在使組織能夠在準備和應對任何網路危機時保持互聯(Connected)、自信(Confident)、掌控(Control)和法規遵循(Compliant)。 全球安全顧問、《紐約時報》暢銷書《未來的犯罪》(Future Crimes)作者Marc Goodman表示:「無論在網路安全上投入多少資金,網路危機都是不可避免的,世界上的每一家組織都需要為這種可能發生的事件做好準備和計畫。成功應對網路危機是非常複雜的,大多數受害者之所以失敗,是因為他們在危機發生時才試圖胡亂拼湊出應對措施。提前做好準備並制定切實可行的計畫,對於任何組織的網路恢復能力都是至關重要的。」 當網路危機真正發生時,提前的準備和演練可以發揮很大作用。根據《2022年資料外洩成本報告》(The Cost of Data Breach Report 2022)中的資料,準備和演練更充分的組織平均可節省138萬美元的直接成本。 CYGNVS(CYber…

8 hours ago

University of Phoenix College of Doctoral Studies Releases Whitepaper on Role of Demographics in Career Optimism

Authors from Center for Educational and Instructional Technology Research draws on findings of 2022 Career…

1 day ago

Metaverse and Immersive Technology Survey 2022-2023: Results from IT Business Makers – How Organizations will Use Immersive Services in the Next 24 Months

DUBLIN, Jan. 28, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- The "Evaluating Perceptions and the Use of Immersive Technologies…

1 day ago

Flexible Display Global Market Report 2022: by Display Type, Substrate Material, Form Factor, Application and Region

DUBLIN, Jan. 28, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- The "Flexible Display Global Market Report 2022" report has…

1 day ago