Holly Schindler, program coordinator, and Phil Miller, technology director, check the systems at Dakota Media Access.
ST. PAUL, Minn. — As the public, education and government access provider serving the North Dakota cities of Bismarck and Mandan, Dakota Media Access began broadcasting its government access and community media channels in HDTV on Feb. 24, 2015. The transition to HD, which also included new multiplatform delivery for online streaming, was supported through an upgrade to its Tightrope Media Systems Cablecast infrastructure.
The upgrade swapped the existing Tightrope Cablecast SD gear for a fully integrated Cablecast HD infrastructure that includes broadcast playout servers, Cablecast VOD for video on demand content and Cablecast Live for streaming its content to the web. The Cablecast upgrade additionally includes HD/SD up-and-down conversion, ensuring that existing SD content can still be incorporated into the program schedule.
Overall, the upgrade is built on a multiplatform delivery strategy with higher quality content and flexible viewing options to drive audience numbers.
“This HD upgrade is more than a beauty makeover,” said Mary Van Sickle, executive director for Dakota Media Access. “It conveys that our programming is valuable, timely and relevant. In this competitive media marketplace, going HD and offering live and on-demand web content is essential to attracting and retaining viewers. We chose to stay with Tightrope because they offer great technology at an affordable price backed by excellent customer service. Over the years, Tightrope has demonstrated a true understanding of the unique needs of community media and a long-standing dedication to the PEG market.”
The government access channel — which is carried in HD on Channel 602 (and Channel 2 for SD) on the Midcontinent Communications cable system — presents 250 live municipal and public affairs meetings that take place in Bismarck and Mandan, and Burleigh and Morton counties, annually. The community access channel programs — produced by Bismarck and Mandan citizens using Dakota Media’s studios — are broadcast in HD on Channel 612 (SD Channel 12). The Tightrope Cablecast upgrade includes a dedicated server to automate the delivery of promos, messaging, weather and announcements.
Dakota Media Access has additionally made further upgrades across its acquisition and production systems to attract more community members to its facility. Like many PEG channels nationwide, the facility provides community access to its HD production studios, along with systems training.
“The reality is that the high cost of upgrading to HD is cost-prohibitive for many community media operations nationwide, but we were determined to make it work for the benefit of our local community,” Van Sickle said. “Our successful HD migration — which puts us at the vanguard of PEG operations — is owing to upgrading our infrastructure to an affordable, reliable and user-friendly Cablecast HD workflow from Tightrope Media Systems.”