PCTV and the Power of APIs

Updated: May 31, 2023

PCTV's Shawn Serre talks about setting up their Cablecast Internet Channel, and a screenshot of their homepage

Pittsfield Community Television (PCTV), a community media organization serving the City of Pittsfield, MA, has made it easy for its viewers to access programming on their website with help from new and improved Cablecast Internet Channels (formerly called Public Sites) and refreshed and simplified Cablecast RESTful APIs.

Rather than duplicating or simply promoting its linear TV channel, PCTV’s website features the ability to watch the VOD library front and center. “We wanted the website to showcase the rich video assets we have,” explains PCTV’s Shawn Serre. “We believe that really sets us apart from a lot of other organizations.”

PCTV has designed its website to cater to visitors that are looking for specific programming. There’s a huge “Watch” button on the homepage, along with seven broad programming categories, including sports, school and city meetings. When a viewer clicks on a category, the page displays a series of playlists (Cablecast Internet Channel galleries) under that category that are available to watch on-demand. The playlists are created in Cablecast using the dynamic saved search feature, so once the web developer links that saved search on the site, there’s no need to make adjustments on the website itself. Viewers can also use the embedded search bar to find what they’re looking for.

According to Serre, Cablecast makes the workflow “super simple” for the PCTV staff. More importantly, though, it “makes it really straightforward for the visitor to the website to understand how to find what they’re looking for,” he says.

Serre described the back-and-forth process with their web developer when setting up Cablecast API. “I don’t know much about APIs and I also don’t know much about web development,” he admits. “The first thing we had to do was find a web developer and designer who was willing to be a little flexible with us.”

Serre was able to create an Internet Channel in Cablecast that would define what content to include on their website and how to sort it, plus it would make videos searchable by show title. By providing the APIs for this internet channel, Serre’s web developer was able to seamlessly integrate dynamic content feeds configured in the Cablecast broadcast automation platform into their web design. While Serre had to explain a few things that are inherent to Cablecast workflows, such as saved searches and galleries, the recent Cablecast API update made this process much easier to explain to someone without a deep understanding of the Cablecast Automation platform.

Serre emphasized the importance of maintaining the PCTV style. Serre says the developer did a good job organizing content in a way that web visitors could use easily. “He did a few mockups for us,” Serre recalls, “and we could see that he understood it and that it was working well.”

PCTV chose Cablecast to host the station’s web video for several reasons, not the least of which was avoiding repetitive work. Cablecast is serving as the primary workflow for the channel, so maintaining that workflow for the website is easier on PCTV’s staff. “The concept of doing something once, rather than doing it four or five different times, is very appealing,” says Serre.

However, the main reason behind the Cablecast site integration is to keep PCTV’s public-facing VOD and live-streaming content hosted in an environment that they control. “These days, with the large tech companies, things change on a dime,” explains Serre. “They might have further restrictions today that they didn’t have yesterday—and yet we’ve promised our viewers that they can go see something on a particular platform, and now we have to apologize [if something changes].

“On Cablecast we know we can [deliver]. The assets are there, we create the video on demand, and we create the live stream,” Serre adds. “And people always have a reliable place to go find it.[ We know that because it’s in our own ecosystem] and we control it. It’s a way better method of presenting it to the viewer.”

With Cablecast API, it’s easy to integrate your broadcast automation platform into your website. Learn more about PCTV’s use of Cablecast API here.

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