To make the transition, Disney/ABC Television Group will use Imagine Communications’ VersioCloud, IP-enabled master control and playout software, replacing traditional broadcast master control that relies on various discrete pieces of technology, such as graphics and branding systems and playout servers. With this new cloud model, the network’s affiliates will continue to have the ability to do local inserts of their own news and other programming, commercials and promos.
The Disney/ABC Television Group will move its linear broadcast television operations to IP-based virtual master control and playout using an IP cloud architecture powered by technology from Imagine Communications, the company officially disclosed Sunday evening during a party in Las Vegas on the eve of the NAB Show.
“By leveraging evolving IP and cloud technologies, we are able to move beyond what’s currently possible with traditional proprietary ‘big iron’ broadcast infrastructures,” said Vince Roberts, EVP, global operations and CTO, Disney/ABC Television Group in a press release.
To make the transition, Disney/ABC Television Group will use Imagine Communications’ VersioCloud, IP-enabled master control and playout software. Traditional broadcast master control that relies on various discrete pieces of technology, such as graphics and branding systems and playout servers, is made virtual via VersioCloud as software running on Blade servers in data centers.
Imagine Communications’ Zenium software-defined workflow management platform powers VersioCloud.
“This partnership with Disney— the fact that they are going to transition their playout from physical locations in places like New York and Burbank and move it into a data center model where all of the playout software will be 100% virtualized and indeed running across this network topology that they have built — gives them a lot of advantages,” said Imagine Communications CTO Steve Reynolds during a telephone interview prior to the formal announcement.
Among the advantages are inherent disaster recovery because the Disney/ABC Television Group will be running a “hot-hot implementation” from a pair of datacenters that can instantly be swapped between in the event of a failure; scalability that will allow the TV network to grow its channel offerings without massive investments in new broadcast technology; and the ability to capture new revenue by spinning up and turning off new channels when transient opportunities, such as short-lived sporting or entertainment events, arise, Reynolds said.
However, the move to virtualized master control and playout will not affect daily operations at the network’s owned stations nor at its affiliates, Reynolds added.
“The distribution model is hierarchical. At the top is national, so all of the things that traditionally would have come out of the broadcast center in New York … to the affiliates will still be distributed, it just doesn’t come from the broadcast center. It comes from these data centers,” Reynolds said.
The affiliates will continue to have the ability to do local inserts of their own news and other programming, commercials and promos, he said.
Inside the data centers, uncompressed video over IP conforming to the SMPTE 2022-6 standard will be used. However, to move video outside the data centers a “lightweight J2K compression” will be applied, Reynolds explained.
Imagine Communications has built a gateway that goes between the uncompressed and compressed IP network as well as any remaining baseband elements, he said.
While the Disney/ABC Television Group’s decision to virtualize master control and playout in the cloud may be at the cutting edge for the broadcast industry, other industries long ago have made similar steps by “moving away from proprietary monolithic systems” to “common computing platforms and enterprise switches,”Reynolds said.
“There is a certain inevitability to it. This is the next step in the evolution of the broadcast industry,” he said.
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