Okay. Things must be a bit different there. In the US the various program feeds are set to the ATSC encoder which takes the feeds and massages the data in it of itself.
I think your 'Black Box' concept for 'an encoder', is bigger and broader than mine.
Yes there are other things in the stream. But that’s the overall gist of the latest technologies from Harmonic for both ATSC 1 and 3.0 prior to transport.
There are encoders that can handle multiple inputs and outputs, and there is an increasing amount of cloud encoding, but my experience is generally each variation of each channel will have it's own dedicated encoder. They're only brought together at the end by the multiplexer (another seperate device).
I look after multiple channels going out in SD and HD to all the platforms in the UK, and some in the US as well, and every variation of every channel needs its own encoder. For example one channel has a 'Freeview SD' encoder, and a 'Sky HD' encoder, and a 'US DirecTV' encoder, and so on.
While there are some operating differences between the US and Europe, generally the same encoders are used on both sides of the pond as the video and audio streams are the same, so there's no difference in terms of encoding between DVB and ATSC. For example there's many Tandberg/Ericsson/MediaKind encoders and decoders in use for distribution both in the UK and the US.
Constant bitrate encoding is easy, you can have a single encoder that feeds every mux the channel needs to be on provided it has enough space. Variable stat muxing is more complicated as it requires all the encoders and the multiplexer to communicate with each other to decide which channels get which percentage of the mux capacity based on the content being encoded. Therefore each mux (i.e. each region) usually requires every channel to have dedicated encoders as the requirements will be different for each mux, and so you can't have a single encoder for all the muxes as the allowed capacity on one mux won't be the same on the others.
There are ways you can stat mux and share encoders. There are muxes which allocate for example 20% to regional variations encoded at a constant bitrate, and 80% to national stat muxed channels which are the same on every variation, allowing once set of 'national' encoders to be used for all the regional muxes. This is how the local muxes in the UK work. However it's a less than ideal situation as you can end up with a local channel using a higher bitrate than required (e.g. slow moving movie), and a stat muxed channel becoming a blocky mess (e.g. sports) as it's not able to use the unrequired capacity, so it's generally not used for channels with high viewership.