SVG TranSPORT Event Draws Record Crowd, Delves Into State of Live Transmission

Hot topics included backhaul over public internet, IP data networks for file transfer

SVG’s TranSPORT event yesterday drew a standing-room-only crowd of more than 275 to the Microsoft Technology Center for a day of panel discussions and case studies addressing the current state of sports-video contribution, transmission, exchange, and distribution.

SVG’s TranSPORT event drew a standing-room-only crowd of more than 275 people at the Microsoft Technology Center on Tuesday.

Among the top-of-mind issues discussed and debated throughout the day-long forum were the current state of the fiber- and satellite-transmission sectors, the potential impact of ATSC 3.0, the upcoming launch of 5G mobile services, the explosion of OTT streaming, 4K and HDR delivery, the growing use of IP and bonded-cellular technologies, and the growth of at-home production workflows.

Fox Networks Group VP, Global Operations and Transmission Services, Keith Goldberg, returning as TranSPORT Committee Chair, kicked off the event with an overview of the challenges and opportunities facing the industry today.

“The past few years, we’ve heard words like disruption, transformative, convergence,” he said. “One look at some of the major players [in the media industry] today shows the tremendous forces that are at play right now in what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, and how we’re really turning the broadcast world upside down. Ultimately, though, we [must focus on] the customers and the viewer trends; that’s a lot of what’s driving this.”

2018 SVG TranSPORT Survey: IP/Public Internet on the Rise
Following his opening remarks, Goldberg joined the first panel discussion of the day: The State of TranSPORT: Broadcaster Perspectives (a companion State of TranSPORT panel offering Vendor Perspectives closed the day). In addition to touching on a variety of key topics facing the industry, the panel featured release of the annual SVG TranSPORT Survey, which provides data on the methods used by major broadcasters to backhaul video feeds from live coverage of sports events.

This year’s data (see graphs at right) — based on responses from CBS Sports, ESPN, Fox Sports, NBC Sports, Turner Sports, and Sinclair Broadcast Group — indicate that primary backhauls in 2018 used dedicated fiber 63% of the time (up from 59% in 2017), satellite 18% of the time (down from 23%), and IP/public internet 19% (up from 18%).

Projections for 2019 suggest that use of IP/public internet will rise to 24% of all sports backhauls, while satellite stays stable at 18% and dedicated fiber drops to 58%. According to the data, this growth in IP/public internet is due largely to an increase in the live streaming of lower-tier events, which were not previously produced at all. While dedicated fiber’s percentage is projected to drop, the total number of events backhauled via fiber is expected to be almost flat (with major events continuing to rely on it for contribution).

IP/Public Internet Still Faces Backhaul Challenges
Although the rise in use of public internet for contribution continues, many on the panel were hesitant to deem the method ready for primetime until the last mile of connectivity becomes more dependable.

“For a live Tier 1 event, it’s about getting over the fear of the internet,” explained David Chilson, director, broadcast distribution operations and engineering, CBS. “A lot of us have been around for a long time, and we view it like we did back in the day when … it didn’t really work that well. Well, the fear is less and less each year as you get the experience.

The State of TranSPORT panel featured (from left) Turner’s Bob Baker, CBS’s Dave Chilson, NBC Sports’ Chris Connolly, Fox’s Keith Goldberg, and ESPN’s Adam Whitlock.

“You realize the internet isn’t the problem; the last mile [is]. It’s that last mile that allows you to get to the internet,” he continued. “We’re slowly getting over that fear by realizing that the internet is a reliable vehicle if you can get that last mile and you can get the infrastructure in your plant to manage it.”

Bob Baker, senior media transport architect, Turner Broadcasting, provided an inside look at Turner Sports’ remote production for last month’s Ryder Cup, for which the broadcaster transmitted16 feeds over the open internet from Le Golf National in Paris to a control room in Atlanta. The feeds, which were used for featured-hole coverage available via PGA.com and RyderCup.com, were sent from CTV’s OB1 mobile production unit via CenturyLink via open internet without issues, he said.

“It came down to cost,” he added. “We looked at multiple fiber carriers, and it was just really expensive, especially the first mile. We used the internet, and it worked really well.”

Onsite live productions of sports events demand ever increasing bandwidth for larger/more file transfers between the venue and a broadcast center back home. Today, a reliable IP data-network connection is a given for large- and even medium-size shows: producers expect to be able to share content and access video libraries back home for their live productions.

Managing IP Data Network Still a Challenge in Compounds
“Any truck EIC would probably tell you at this point that the priority is internet, power, and then oxygen,” joked Adam Whitlock, associate director, remote traffic operations, ESPN. “You can’t live without the internet. For us, file transfer has been really helpful; we used to ship tapes around, and, when we produced something, we used to have to spend a good amount of time keeping transport in mind.

Fox Sports’ Keith Goldberg (center) served as SVG TranSPORT Committee Chair for the second consecutive year.

“Our larger events or premier properties like Monday Night Football use a huge amount of gigs to connect back to Bristol and keep the files moving back and forth,” he continued. “But now, we’re finding even on our same-day set/shoot/strike [events] — like our NBA or MLS coverage — we have to have a pipe capable of [high-speed] transport.”

One of the most significant challenges presented by the explosion in data needs for high-speed file transfer has been the lack of well-trained engineers and troubleshooting tools to manage these highly complex IP data networks.

“One of our biggest challenges is the EICs: they’re responsible for the truck, and now we’re asking them to work on transmission,” said Chris Connolly, senior director, transmission engineering and operations,  and Olympics. “We’re asking them to work on networks where we don’t have IT [experts], and that can create problems.

“One of our other big challenges to the vendors,” he continued, “is having the tools to troubleshoot this. It’s often very difficult to know if your [IP network] is set up correctly or if it’s a problem with your gear or a problem with the circuit. You run into a lot of different things, and there are not a ton of great tools [for figuring] out where the issue is.”

Recapping a Jam-Packed Day at TranSPORT
Other panel discussions explored these pressing industry issues: The 5G Revolution: How 5G Will Transform Live Contribution; The OTT Landscape: Best Practices in Managing Latency, QoS, and Piracy; and UHD Delivery: 4K, HDR, and the Future of Live Sports Transmission.

The event also featured a special Next-Gen Standards Update from Video Services Forum and ATSC and a series of case studies: How Fox Sports Revolutionized the Delivery of the 2018 FIFA World Cup (sponsored by Aspera); Enhancing Media Workflows for Esports With Private, On-Demand, Flexible IP Delivery Via Automated Networks (sponsored by PCCW Global); and How Türk Telekom Centralized Turkish Football Federation’s VAR Operation (sponsored by Net Insight).

SVG’s TranSPORT is made possible through the support of the TranSPORT Committee and this year’s event sponsors: Title Sponsor Aspera, an IBM Company; Diamond Sponsors CenturyLink, Intelsat, The Switch, and Zixi; Event Sponsors AT&T, AWS Elemental, LTN Global Communications, Net Insight, Nevion, PCCW Global, and Tata Communications.

Check out www.sportsvideo.org for more in-depth reports, video interviews, and photos from TranSPORT 2018.

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