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NAB Perspectives: Nevion’s Suard on the Rise of IP in Live Sports Production

April 28th, 2015 Posted in Headlines By Jason Dachman

Nevion was one of many vendors at NAB 2015 preaching the benefits of IP production for live remote and studio production. At the show, the company announced that its VideoIPath media-services–management platform now supports the OpenFlow industry-standard protocol to enable software-defined networking (SDN). The integration is part of Nevion’s overarching effort to allow broadcasters to control networks more effectively in order to achieve defined and predictable reliability using SDN.

In addition, Nevion announced that its media gateways and monitoring probes were used by Star Sports India to deliver live 4K/UHD coverage of the ICC Cricket World Cup in Australia last month and that Norkring selected Nevion’s VideoIPath and TVG450 JPEG 2000 media gateways for a new football contribution network in Sweden.

Marketing Director Olivier Suard at Nevion’s booth

Marketing Director Olivier Suard at Nevion’s booth

SVG sat down with Marketing Director Olivier Suard to discuss how Nevion is helping to lead the rise of IP for live sports production and the role it played in the ICC Cricket World Cup 4K production and other recent sports events.

Have you seen the industry embrace IP production more over the past year?
We have been in business some 20 years in one shape or form, and we have been hammering the IP message. Our first IP contribution was in 2006, when we had two projects, one using linear uncompressed and the other one using JPEG 2000. Now the industry is finally coming around. If I was to bet my house on IP happening in broadcasting, I probably would.

What we’ve seen in the last year is a big shift from vaguely talking about IP in the facilities and studios to being quite serious about it. Suddenly, it’s gone from 0 to 60 in no time. But it’s been a long time coming, and we’ve been on the starting line for many years. In the last year, we have had a lot of interest.

Our message is to go with a hybrid [model]. You don’t have to scrap your baseband investment. And, honestly, it makes no sense because it’s all very expensive. Sure, maybe in the long run, an IP camera is cheaper, but don’t scrap what you already have. Maybe the next time you buy a camera, it will be a full IP camera, but our main job is to explain how you can keep your baseband-investment network and be able to move to IP at the same time.

Can you cite any real-world examples of how IP production in the sports sector?
We have worked with a major sports network in the U.S. that has gone all IP and is doing 850 live events a year [via IP production]. By replacing the bigger OB truck or the satellite link with little trucks and all IP, they say they saved $10,000-$12,000 per event. So you times that 850, and you are talking $10 million, $12 million a year they save by going IP. The great thing is, they don’t have to send the people to the location anymore. The benefit that you get from the great flexibility, fewer people, less equipment is huge, particularly in the sports environment. What it means is that the minority sports in other countries in Europe can now be made available to a wider audience.

One of the announcements in the run-up to the show was about the Swedish Football League. In the grand scheme of things, Swedish soccer league does not register very high, but there is definitely a market, not just in Sweden but for all the Swedes across the world. So, when you start getting these economies of being able to do production much more cheaply, you can do more events and reach out further. It might be a niche market, but it’s there. You can get the price point to agree with it.

ITV is the largest commercial broadcaster in the UK, and they have essentially created this contribution network based on IP, delivered by BT. On top of that, they have our VideoIPath management system, which hides the complexity of the network and allows [broadcasters] like ITV or smaller sports channels to set up the ad hoc links that they need themselves. They don’t need to worry about IP addresses, ports, and all that. The GUI manages all the resources. It will tell you if you have the capacity or any conflicts. So VideoIpath is playing a really key role particularly on the contribution side.

What role can IP contribution and delivery play in the emergence of 4K production?
A great example was, BT used our products to do coverage the ICC Cricket World Cup last month. BT got the contract from Star Sports India to do the coverage of all the India games, and it was the first time cricket has been covered in 4K. It was taking place in Australia; they used our products to do the transport with full protection between Australia and India, thousands of miles away. They also used our products to do the monitoring, which they did out of London. So it’s very cool because it’s like a three-continent story. They used the quadrants approach, so they didn’t carry native 4K, but it was still all over IP. For BT, it was quite a breakthrough, and it all went well.

What role can Nevion play in creating SDN workflows for broadcasters, and why does it make sense for broadcasters to go down this road?
Our proposed architecture for IP involves a central spine. The main difference is, that spine is not necessarily made of a single big, fat router; it can be a number of routers, because that’s how IP works. You can start with a smaller router or two or three of them to scale, and then eventually you buy a big, fat router. But, instead of actually scrapping things every time, what you’re doing is adding things. That allows you to basically start small and grow as you need.

Our approach comes from the way the data centers are built with a leaf-spine architecture: essentially, a studio has one router that takes all the various signals and then forwards [them] to the central network. In the middle, the spine has one or more routers of different sizes. On the edge, we have Media Edge nodes that will take the baseband signals, encapsulate them into IP, add any protection, compression if you want, and then send them down the network. All the benefits of IP are there, including multicasting. So, from one router, you can send to multiple locations.

The announcement we made at NAB is, we’ve added SDN to that, because the complaint from many broadcasters is [that] they didn’t know what was going down where. We have integrated our VideoIpath management system with OpenFlow, a standard protocol used in the telco industry and other data-center industries. That allows us to specify that [feeds] from this studio to that studio should always go down these specific connections.

In this configuration, the studios are right next to each other or 20, 30, 100 miles away, and it’s still the same architecture. So that’s the beauty of this.

How do you see this benefiting live sports production?
In remote production, you’ve got your production onsite in the stadium or at the venue or whatever. Then you’ve got contribution, and then it gets to the studio. But, with this architecture, you’re almost turning that inside out. You’re looking at the studio and saying this is the architecture for the studio. Oh and by the way, it can stretch out. We have to get that across to our customers.