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The best cloud-based broadcast scheduling software | Amagi

June 22, 2022

By Naman Garg, Lead Product Manager, Streaming TV

Amagi PLANNER is a cloud-based broadcast scheduling software that eliminates many of the traditional hassles of schedule creation. It enables channel owners to construct program schedules quickly, easily, and more effectively than alternative providers.

In this article, we'll show you how you can use Amagi PLANNER to:

  1. Use ad break automation instead of wasting hours to insert hundreds of ad breaks manually.
  2. Quickly construct schedules with a drag-and-drop interface (plus extra features that reduce repetitive actions).
  3. Avoid rights management violations with our automated warning system.
  4. Easily group and schedule short-form assets (such as music playlists).
  5. Publish schedules in your desired format (playlist, EPG, or CSV file).
  6. Improve content planning with viewership and ad analytics.

Amagi's full suite of tools can also support your entire content distribution and monetization operation. Amagi is an award-winning, cloud-based channel playout platform that helps television networks and other content owners manage, deliver, and monetize their content on online video platforms (like Roku, Samsung TV Plus, Sling TV, Hulu, etc.).

We’ve helped over 700 content brands (like Discovery Networks, Tastemade, Fox Networks, Vice Media, and more) launch channels in over 40 countries.

To learn more about how you can use Amagi for broadcast scheduling, channel playout (via cloud, satellite, or fiber), streamlined asset management, OTT platform delivery, ad monetization, live streaming, analytics, and more, contact our team.

1) Automate ad break insertion

There are almost 200 ad breaks in an average daily playlist. Manually inserting every single one of those ad breaks into a content schedule is the worst part of the job (as you probably know).

Amagi PLANNER eliminates this hassle by automatically inserting ad breaks into your schedule based on your specifications.

To automate ad break scheduling, you must create rules for the different scheduling situations your channel uses.

First, you can use the asset filter to determine which assets the rule applies to, based on characteristics such as genre, asset duration, rating, number of segments and so forth. You can also select a specific asset, series, or season to which the rule applies. Finally, you have an option to schedule contextual promos/ad media.

Second, you can choose the flight duration, a.k.a. the time/date range for which the ad automation rules apply. For example, you might use this to schedule different ad break patterns for different months or for peak hours vs off-peak hours.

Next, you can create the rules. As you create each rule, you’ll specify a few basics, such as the length of the ad break, when it applies (Before the program? Only for the 3rd break?), and what type of asset you want to use (e.g., a 3rd party ad, a bumper, etc.).

Once your ad break rules are defined, our scheduling system will automatically insert ad breaks as you build your schedule.

2) Construct schedules in the drag-and-drop builder

Amagi PLANNER uses a drag-and-drop interface and extra functionalities that reduce repetitive actions to make building your schedules faster and easier than ever before.

You can view your schedule as a daily or weekly content calendar. To add content to your schedule, simply drag a program from the Content Manager into the appropriate time slot.

Still, manually inserting every individual program into your full channel schedule would involve needless repetition. Instead, you can expedite schedule creation with these shortcuts:

  1. Schedule an entire series at once
  2. Copy and paste schedule blocks.

A) Schedule an entire series at once

To quickly schedule an entire series at once, drag and drop the entire series into the appropriate time slot and set the rules for how you want the series to play out.

Series scheduling automation rules include:

  • Target duration (i.e. flexible vs fixed content scheduling)
  • Programs per day
  • Schedule pattern
  • Scheduling dates

Flexible vs. fixed content scheduling

Most other tools only allow for fixed content scheduling. But Amagi PLANNER is a versatile solution that enables you to build schedules that work best for you and your audience by choosing between:

  • Fixed content scheduling
  • Flexible content scheduling

With fixed content scheduling, content is scheduled in half-hourly or hourly content blocks. When you insert a program into your schedule, it will automatically start playing at the beginning of that content block (i.e. at the top of the hour or half-hour). The content will play out its duration, then filler will be played until the end of that content block (if necessary).

With flexible content scheduling, the content begins at whatever time you specify, plays out to its conclusion, and another piece of content begins as soon as it ends.

For example, let’s say you have a show plus ad breaks that together take 37 minutes. Do you really want to play eight minutes of filler when you could just start playing the next show? For many of our clients, the preference is to launch straight into the next piece of content, even if it creates start times like 6:17 pm.

While one might think that having content start and end at odd times might negatively impact viewership (i.e. viewers will have difficulty predicting when to watch), our FAST clients actively requested this feature because their audience is more engaged and doesn’t care what time a show starts, as long as it matches the channel schedule. Providing their viewers with lots of content they enjoy is the most important factor to the success of their channel. To accommodate that need, they wanted flexible scheduling.

In the process of building your flexible content schedule, gaps may develop between scheduled content.

You can quickly connect all of your scheduled programs to patch any holes in your daily schedule by:

  • Highlighting the entire day's schedule
  • Right-clicking on the selected day's schedule
  • Clicking "Attach assets to top"

As a result, you can easily see how much time you need to fill at the end of the day and adjust accordingly.

Programs per day and schedule pattern

With the "Programs/Day" feature, you can choose how many episodes of the series will play out each day.

Combined with the "Schedule Pattern" feature — which determines how frequently the program plays (daily, weekly, or monthly) — you can quickly and easily schedule playout for an entire series across days, weeks, or months instead of manually inserting each episode into your schedule at the time and date you want it to play.

For example, if you want to play one episode of a series every day at 9:00 p.m., you would:

  • Set "Programs/Day" to one.
  • Set "Schedule Pattern" to daily.

Amagi PLANNER will then schedule one episode every day at 9:00 p.m. for the duration of the series (or for as long as you specify in the "Scheduling Date").

Scheduling Date

You can use "Scheduling Date" to determine when your series starts playing and when it ends.

So, if there are eleven episodes in your series, you can set the automation to last for eleven weeks. Otherwise, the end date is determined by the system depending on other schedule patterns you’ve provided.

You can combine all three automation settings to create schedules such as:

  • Play every single episode back-to-back for a binge-watching marathon.
  • Play three episodes every day for the duration of the series.

B) Copy and paste schedule blocks

You can quickly copy and paste any content schedule blocks for repetitive scheduling by:

  • Highlighting all the content you want to copy
  • Right-clicking on it
  • Selecting "Copy"
  • Right-clicking where you want to insert the content
  • Then selecting "Paste"

3) Avoid rights management violations

Licensing agreements can be complex. And if you license lots of content for your channel, navigating those partnerships can be cumbersome and makes building playlists more painful.

But Amagi PLANNER uses an automated warning system to ease the burden of rights management and to help you avoid costly scheduling errors.

You can insert the licensing agreement rules into the metadata for all licensed content, including:

  • When you're allowed to play the content
  • The number of times you can play the content within a given time period (down to a month, a week, a day, or even a certain number of hours).

Anytime you schedule a program in violation of its licensing agreement, a red dot will appear in the top right corner to alert you to the violation.

While Amagi PLANNER will still allow you to schedule the program, it won't allow you to export it as an EPG. Since licensing agreements often change, Amagi PLANNER will allow you to schedule the program ahead of time, but the licensing violation must be fixed by the time you send it to your playout solution.

4) Create and schedule entire playlists with "Collections"

You can use "Collections" — playlists of content in a certain category — to quickly schedule hours of short-form programming.

For example, let's say you're running an 80's music video channel, and you want to play:

  • 80's Rock music from 4:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. every day
  • 80's Pop music from 6:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m. every day

Rather than scheduling each music video individually, you could create two "Collections" — one for all of your 80's Rock and one for all of your 80's Pop. Then, schedule those "Collections" to play every day at the appropriate time, and set them to shuffle playout so the playlist alternates every day.

When you’re creating multiple programs using collection automation, you can fix the position of certain assets (we refer to this as “pinning asset automation”). For example, you could set up a rule so that every program should have the channel ID on the top, or that every program should start with particular music video, or that the credits play at the end of the schedule. In other words, you can choose the asset to be pinned and the position within the larger schedule that it should appear.

Also note that you can automatically insert ad breaks in collections. Just define the number of ad breaks you want in the program; Amagi PLANNER will distribute them as equally as possible throughout and at the end of the program.

5) Publish schedules in your desired format

When you're ready to publish your content schedule, simply select “Publish,” and choose the format you want to convert it to.

You can convert your schedule into…

  • An EPG for delivery to multiple platforms via Amagi CLOUDPORT (no manual EPG uploading required)
  • A playlist for playout on multiple platforms via Amagi CLOUDPORT
  • A CSV for playout with another tool.

6) Improve content planning with analytics

Amagi PLANNER provides you with analytics you can use to optimize your content schedules.

                                                                         Asset Usage

You can use the Asset Usage tab to get details on the scheduling frequency of any program.

By monitoring how often you've scheduled a program over a given time period, you can get insight into which programs are driving viewership and avoid oversaturating your audience. You can also download asset usage reports and share them with your team.

You can set frequency caps on any program to limit how often you're allowed to schedule it within a given time frame. If, for example, you set a frequency cap of twice per week for one of your shows, a red dot will alert you to your overscheduling error if you exceed it.

Dive deeper into analytics with Amagi THUNDERSTORM

Amagi THUNDERSTORM is a DAI (dynamic ad insertion) tool you can use to monetize your channel with ads and collect real-time analytics on viewership and ad performance.

Using Amagi THUNDERSTORM's analytics, you can make better scheduling decisions and optimize your schedules to maximize viewership and revenue by:

  • Identifying the programs that draw the most viewers and/or perform the best with ads
  • Identifying the times viewership is at its highest
  • Scheduling your most popular, highest-earning programs at peak viewing times

Having access to a DAI solution empowers you with the data to charge a higher CPM on your ads for high-performing content, while offering a better experience for your viewers on all digital platforms.

Learn more: Dynamic ad insertion for linear tv

Deliver a better channel with Amagi

Amagi PLANNER's drag-and-drop scheduling solution enables you to create content schedules faster by using automated ad break insertion and schedule-building shortcuts that eliminate repetitive actions and streamline your workflow. And it can also be programmed to alert you to any violations of your licensing agreements or frequency caps, making complying with scheduling policies easier.

While you can use Amagi PLANNER on its own, Amagi offers a full suite of solutions to support your entire content distribution and monetization operation. Using Amagi's tools together helps deliver a better viewer experience, saves money compared to on-premise broadcast management solutions, and maximizes channel revenue.

Amagi CLOUDPORT

Amagi CLOUDPORT is an award-winning, broadcast-grade playout solution that supports content ingestion, asset management, and multichannel delivery.

You can ingest your content into Amagi CLOUDPORT once and deliver it to FAST platforms (like Roku), TV channels (via IP, fiber, or satellite), VOD platforms, mobile apps, and more. Amagi CLOUDPORT uses automated quality controls to detect errors so your QC team can fix them. And it automatically tailors your content to comply with the tech specifications of the platforms you deliver to (and updates the tech specs when the requirements change).

Amagi THUNDERSTORM

Amagi THUNDERSTORM is a dynamic ad insertion tool you can use to monetize content with highly targeted ads and collect real-time analytics on viewership, content, and ad performance.

  • With Amagi THUNDERSTORM, you can boost ad revenue by:
    Avoiding ad blockers and increasing ad fill rates
  • Manipulating manifest files to deliver ads that are targeted to each viewer based on data about the viewer, what the viewer is watching, and where the viewer is located (e.g., You can deliver ads for local businesses.)
  • Using cutting-edge ad tactics like nonlinear ads and interactive ads

Amagi LIVE

Amagi LIVE is a low-latency live orchestration tool that can be used to remotely stream live events to FAST platforms and TV stations. It can be deployed with ease (We can spin up infrastructure on the cloud when you need it and break it down when you don’t.) and is capable of:

  • Ingesting multi-source, multi-protocol content
  • Delivering high-quality streams in SD, HD, and 4K
  • Supporting complex delivery requirements, such as streaming to different platforms at different qualities
  • Automatically recording live events for replay on linear channels and VOD distribution
  • Inserting graphics and ads in real time
  • Using speech-to-text software to generate live subtitles

Read more: How to broadcast live sports with Amagi

To learn more about how you can use Amagi for broadcast scheduling, channel playout, ad monetization, live streaming, analytics, and more, contact our team.

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