RALEIGH, NC—The Barix Reflector Service was introduced in spring 2010 as a cost-efficient Audioover- IP distribution system for those small broadcasters who are simply unable to afford costly satellite or ISDN alternatives. One of the first companies to adopt the Reflector Service by Swiss IPbased communications and control technology company, Barix AG, is Bell Media Group, a syndicated content provider located in Raleigh, NC.
Jay Bell, president and chief engineer of Bell Media Group (BMG), explains that he is using the Reflector Service to distribute live football and basketball games from North Carolina Central University. Bell established BMG to produce, distribute and broadcast, via AM radio and the internet, sports programming, radio talk shows and college sporting events featuring historically black colleges and universities. According to a news release on the website for the NCCU Eagles, the NCCU Sports Network reaches approximately 35,000 listeners in the central and eastern regions of North Carolina.
“I have eight radio stations that carry their football broadcasts,” elaborates Bell. “They dial into my studios, and I handle everything from my end out to the radio stations.”
The live feed from the stadium is transmitted to BMG over a POTS line. A Barix Exstreamer 1000 AoIP device receives the signal, encodes it and transmits it on to streaming media solutions company StreamGuys, whose service then “reflects” that single signal to each affiliate in the group. Barix Exstreamer 100 IP audio devices receive and decode the signal at each affiliate.
“Barix partners with Stream- Guys as they are streaming infrastructure specialists and offer worldwide technical support 24/7,” comments David Gostick, product manager for the Reflector Service at Barix. “Their streaming service complements our technical skills, allowing us to jointly deliver a professionally hosted and operated service to our customers, with confidence it is being monitored around the clock.”
Bell believes that the Reflector Service, by minimizing BMG’s network bandwidth and technical support requirements, saves him between $3,000 and $4,000 on distribution costs versus ISDN or satellite methods. “The Reflector fits all the criteria I needed as an individual businessperson,” he says.
Set up couldn’t be easier, he continues. “When I get the Exstreamer units, all I do is update them with the firmware, put all the proper information into the web browser and check it. I can adjust the volume, I can see who is online or offline, and basically make sure that it’s operational.” The plug-and-play devices configure themselves automatically and, after basic settings are entered into the service platform, each encoder automatically partners with its respective decoder.
Bell was familiar with a competing product through his work at a sports radio station. But, he reports, “It’s kind of pricey, and the learning curve is steep.” He already had experience with Barix products from 2009 before evaluating the setup for the NCCU Sports Network. “What I found was the ease of use,” he reports.
Some of the network affiliates were skeptical about the audio quality prior to the evaluation, he continues. “We tested the Barix Reflector Service with several radio affiliates; many program directors and general managers were floored upon hearing the audio quality.”
Having enjoyed a successful football broadcast season before moving on to basketball coverage, Bell plans to upgrade a couple of units as 2011 gets underway. “I’m going to purchase the [Exstreamser] 500s in the next couple of months. Some of the radio stations have the ability to be automated, so I’m going to place them in two stations and see how the automation process works.” Four of the network affiliates are unmanned.
“I’m also launching a late-night sports talk show,” he reveals. “That’s four radio stations; we’re going to launch March 4.”