Automatically distribute unique commercials and playlists to multiple regions for local ad insertion. This unique solution solves a complex problem with regional management.

Regional Ad Insertion

Having the ability to broadcast regional ads at various locations around a region or a country is an ideal way to increase revenues, sell more spots and provide enhanced service to advertisers and viewers. Aveco has developed custom support the Thomson’s Sapphire Broadcast Server to provide effective master control solutions for regional ad insertion.

Thomson Sapphire Broadcast Server

The Sapphire Broadcast Server from Thomson Video Networks is ideal for capturing and broadcasting digital tv signals over satellite, cable, terrestrial, and IP networks.

It can capture multiple live transport streams or programs via ASI or IP inputs and produces clean and accurate MPEG-2 transport-stream files, which are automatically available for editing, playback or switching, while ingest is still in progress. 

ASTRA Control

ASTRA controls the Sapphire using its native API to take advantage of all of its advanced features. Combined with ASTRA’s Media Asset Management capabilities, ASTRA can control the whole workflow from ingest, file transfers, transcoding and frame accurate playout.

ASTRA/Sapphire Integration – Remote Ad Insertion

In this example, there is a Hub which provides a central ingest and QA facility, centralized storage and a traffic system.  Each region contains a Sapphire for playout of a program with local ad insertion. ASTRA controls the whole workflow:

  1. ASTRA downloads the playlist from traffic, converts it to a Sapphire playlist and send it to each region’s Sapphire.

  2. ASTRA looks at the playlist, identifies what files need to be sent to each Sapphire and transcodes them (if needed) into MPEG 2 or MPEG 4 format.

  3. Astra retrieves the playlist and list of files back from Sapphire for schedule reconciliation. Any missing clips or events are identified and automatically downloaded again.

  4. ASTRA sends the SDI program feed to an ASI encoder and inserts SCTE35 triggers to indicate the start of a commercial break.

  5. ASTRA receives SNMP traps from Sapphire about on air status - and shows the operator which clip has been played.

 6.  ASTRA retrieves the as-run logs for all remotely-located Sapphires and delivers them to traffic for reconciliation.


ASI Stream

The ASI Stream sent to the regions will contain commercial breaks and program segments. At the beginning of each commercial break, an SCTE35 trigger (digital cue tone) tells Sapphire when to start its playlist. At the end of the break, Sapphire switches back to the program stream.

Digital Cue Tone Insertion (SCTE35 triggers)

The ASI Stream needs to have triggers inserted in order for Sapphire to know when to start inserting ads.  SCTE104 commands are defined as a protocol for traffic to generate SCTE35 triggers. ASTRA uses the SCTE104 protocol to program either the ASI encoder (like Thomson ViBE EM2000 or EM3000) or an SDI inserter which will embedded SCTE35 triggers in the SDI stream prior to ASI encoding.

If SCTE35 triggers are not available, ASTRA can also use a 3rd party digital cue tone device for control.

Simple Use Case – Ad Insertion for 20 Channels

For a clean transition between regional ad playout and program playout, the inserted regional break should be frame accurate so no black is shown (if too short) or the last clip is cut (if too long). This is planned in traffic when the regional playlist is generated. Sapphire’s MPEG frame-accurate insertion accomplishes these seamless transitions.

Playlist Distribution, File Transfers and Transcoding

Workflow automation is critical to smooth operations. ASTRA provides all the tools to automatically download the regional playlists, copy the required files to the regions and transcode the clips to MPEG 2 or MPEG-4 for playout in Sapphire.

Manual intervention for any of the above functions is always available for last minute changes.



Sapphire Broadcast Server






Typical Configuration for Regional Ad Insertion.  The transcoder is only required if the house format is not MPEG 2 or MPEG 4.






Data Flow Diagram under ASTRA Control.The transcoder is only required if the house format is not MPEG 2 or MPEG 4.






The top diagram shows the feed into Sapphire.  The bottom diagram shows the insertion of regional ads triggered by SCTE35 triggers.




Ad insertion for 20 Program Streams





Real-time SNMP Monitoring and Redundancy


Real-time SNMP Monitoring & Redundancy Options

For redundancy at the region, ASTRA can control mirrored Sapphires. Commands are sent to both as if they were both on-air. If one fails, the region simply switches over to the backup Sapphire.

ASTRA continually monitors Sapphire’s SNMP messages for status and displays it in ASTRA’s monitoring window.


ASTRA can control Sapphire in a variety of different workflows for regional ad insertion or other applications, including local news insertion.

In addition, ASTRA can monitor the whole workflow including ingest, content management, insertion of SCTE35 triggers, file transfers, file transcoding and downloading of the playlist to multiple sites.

ASTRA provides the operator an easy to use interface that helps eliminate operator errors and reduces complexity for the control of many different regions.