SVG Sit-Down: Tata Communications’ Elio Parente on M&E Plans for the Americas, At-Home Production, Rise of IP

The pandemic has brought a new normal for sports production and distribution

After more than two decades on the transmission side of the M&E industry, Elio Parente joined Tata Communications Media & Entertainment Services (MES) in July to head its American sales team. A veteran of CenturyLink, Level 3, and Genesis, he is now looking to take Tata Communications’ MES team in the region to greater heights.

SVG sat down with Parente to discuss his vision for Tata Communications’ Media & Entertainment services division in the Americas, the acceleration of remote/at-home production as a result of the pandemic, the rise of public-IP protocols for media-transmission needs, and why Tata Communications is excited about the future of the sports-media sector.

Tata Communications’ Elio Parente: “We are reinventing traditional sports and live events to bring it to a captive audience at home, to ensure fans have access to content, while maintaining quality and a sense of engagement.”

What does your new role at Tata Communications entail, and what do you believe you bring to the company given your industry experience?
My new position here is to lead the Americas sales team covering Canada, the U.S., LATAM, and Mexico. Our goal is to grow market share within the Americas and ultimately become industry leaders within the space.

I’ve been in the industry for over 25 years, beginning my career in TV production, going on to help found and build two video-transmission and media-technology companies, [and] then transitioning to the big telecom space, providing and supporting television and media managed services. Although spending most of my career in operations, I transitioned to the sales side about eight years ago.

I am able to take all that experience and understanding of the TV workflow and apply it in this new role. Most important, I am focused on using my experience, knowledge base, and skillset to lead and elevate our already amazing MES team to greater heights. Everyone is a true industry professional, and it is an honor to be working with them.

What are some of Tata Communications’ key projects, missions/goals, messaging that you’d like to make sure the sports-media community is aware of?
The sports-media world is one of the most challenging and dynamic communities within the industry who demand excellence and innovation from its providers. What I’d like the world to know about Tata Communications is that it offers a holistic solution that covers the entire media ecosystem.

We work with some of the leading sports organizations and broadcasting firms, delivering live and produced content to fans all across the globe. We are reinventing traditional sports and live events to bring it to a captive audience at home, to ensure fans have access to content, while maintaining quality and a sense of engagement they’ve come to get used to.

With content now being developed for a global audience, remote production can also help with the production of multilingual content. Every single media organization is now looking at remote production not only as a way to manage costs but as an active part of their business plan to start production activity again. To add, our Content Delivery Network is also optimized for live and on-demand video distribution with a global footprint to ensure that the OTT platforms can face the increased traffic.

We have [helped] some of the biggest sports federations adapt to the pandemic and deliver sports in new formals and enable a safe start as sporting and live media events resume.

We have the world’s largest telecom backbone fiber, internet, and edge infrastructure upon which we operate our MES network. We have a very deep stack of telecom and media products and services that enable us to support our very demanding customer base throughout all areas of the television workflow. Whether it’s traditional multichannel video-programming distributor (MVPD) globally or direct-to-consumer, Tata Communications has the service set, expertise, and knowledge necessary to deliver innovative media solutions for customers. We are also very passionate about the business and have a philosophy of “we will do whatever it takes to support our customers.”

How has the pandemic affected the transmission needs of sports broadcasters/OTT outlets, and how is Tata Communications looking to serve those evolving needs?
I believe the major trends we’re seeing are actually trends that started a few years ago; however, they have been expedited due to current world conditions under COVID-19. I look at these trends as an evolution of the TV industry itself. These include, of course, the trend or initiative around remote/at-home production. For several years now, the industry has been embracing remote-production workflows.

That said, the term remote production has taken on a new dynamic under current conditions. This includes developing new architecture and workflow solutions to support all areas of the television ecosystem, beyond what was usually considered “normal course of business.”

There is a new normal for the sports world, and, as a provider, we have had to innovate to support their needs, leveraging our extremely dynamic and robust technical infrastructure. On top of this, ensuring quality and reliability remains at the forefront of everything we do. This trend we believe will also continue to grow significantly in a post-COVID world, and our media and entertainment solutions are positioned to take our customers into the future.

What other big trends are you seeing in the market these days?
Another trend that is becoming prevalent is the use of public-IP protocols — such as Zixi, RIST, SRT, DVP — to support media-transmission needs. These protocols have been developed to such a degree that the technology offers very secure, reliable, and scalable transmission capabilities.

At Tata Communications, we know that and fully embrace the technology to enhance our already massively deployed global Video Connect network with our Video Connect+ architecture. Our customer base is becoming more trusting of public-IP protocols, and we all understand the benefits of using these protocols where it makes sense. With one of the world’s largest and most ubiquitous internet backbones, we can leverage these protocols to create an even more scalable and dynamic video-contribution and/or -distribution media-transmission network.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the trend towards cloud-based virtual and edge compute workflows. The sports, esports, sports-betting worlds are looking at ways by which they can continue to grow and support their business while maintaining reliability and maximizing efficiencies. We’ve seen the industry start outsourcing fully managed TV workflows to the cloud environment to leverage a virtualized infrastructure that enables cost savings and scalability.

Whether it’s cloud-based architecture to support production or postproduction/editing, media-file storage, or content transcoding for live or VOD, the industry understands that when architected properly, a virtualized cloud-based environment offers benefits that enable their end-to-end workflow and support their technical and operational needs. This is an important area of focus for us as we look to leverage our massive Media Services and Network Services product sets.

How do you see the next 12-24 months playing out from a transmission-technology perspective? And what are the key trends sports broadcasters should keep an eye on moving forward?
I definitely see more of a reliance on remote-production workflows and the use of cloud-based technologies. I do believe the trends I mentioned will only continue to evolve and become more prevalent within the business. We will also see more reliance on edge compute architectures to increase scalability and efficiency and minimize latency.

I also see trust in the public-IP protocols continuing to build and more adoption into mainstream and higher-profile transmission plans. Instead of using this technology for lower-tier events, for example, or for net returns or backup paths, these transmission paths will start to become the primary paths.

Looking forward, I would also expect that workflows put into place during COVID-19 will remain. The sports industry will figure out how to take the best (solutions, architecture, technologies) of what was put in place and build and fine-tune to maximize efficiency and quality.

On the distribution side, we see sports customers conditioning more of their content for distribution across many platforms globally, inclusive of streaming and D-to-C platforms. I see the world of streaming services and infrastructures delivering a television experience closely aligned with traditional distribution across network and satellite. I also see a lot more unique and individualized sports content being produced and made available for consumption based on what the end user wants.

Lastly, with what is going on in the satellite world with respect to the reallocation and auction of the C-band frequency to support the 5G initiative, we will certainly see a shift in the business. This “satellite displacement” shift will be to utilize terrestrial, network-based infrastructure and technologies to enable the distribution of content. Sports broadcasters, content owners, and media companies were already looking at alternative distribution options and are now taking it very seriously.

What can we expect from Tata Communications in the near future, and how will your offerings continue to evolve?
Tata Communications is very focused and passionate about being in the sports-television and -media space and supporting and enabling our industry. We have invested heavily in the infrastructure, talent, and technology. We have developed and continue to develop services and solutions designed to meet the needs of our very demanding, evolving customer base.

Tata Communications is not about selling products; we’re experts across the media ecosystem and believe our value is not only in our network infrastructure and technical assets but in providing the best holistic solution to meet our customer’s needs. As a digital ecosystem enabler, we play a key role in keeping the world connected. Our vision is to build on our existing MES offerings and, ultimately, become a recognized world leader serving the sports industry, globally.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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