Make sure you are connected. The writing is on the wall


John Bozza TV-Bay Magazine
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SIS LIVE has a long history of providing OB technology for horse and dog racing, our traditional link to sports. So you can rightly deduce that we're not what could be considered a more generic OB company. Racing is our heritage and is something we continue to support.

Having said that, we work with a multitude of OB companies in our new guise as the connectivity provider of choice for critical media content, providing multiple avenues of connectivity to and from events with customised solutions for their specific requirements.

However, those requirements are changing. Today, it's all about being connected in ways that until recently we never thought possible.

Everyone has witnessed the move from SD to HD, which is now arguably a distant memory - although it has to be acknowledged that large parts of the world are still in the midst of that transition. However, in our markets we're seeing a significant increase in requests for a level of connectivity service to support UHD production - especially in sports. This has in turn been transformative to the nature of our business as a connectivity supplier, and in many cases the industry as a whole.

The rapidly expanding footprint of fibre-connected venues, and the bandwidth required for those connections, has increased from just 100 megabytes per second a few years ago to a minimum of one gigabyte, and increasingly 10 gigabytes per second. The reason is that the added capacity is necessary to provide the expanded capabilities and, importantly, much greater flexibility that has become essential to the success of any OB business.

And it's not just because of the requirements for higher resolutions. It's the volume of different feeds coming in and out of venues that is driving the connectivity business. In addition to high bandwidth audio and video, items like talkback, internet, and intranet connectivity all are necessitating higher bandwidth in an out of a venue. The provision of that connectivity can just be a means of offering flexibility to an OB on site, or what we're increasingly seeing, which is using reliable, high bandwidth connectivity to facilitate a remote production model. In short, we're increasingly being asked to offer higher and higher bandwidth to on-site production facilities, but we're also being regularly approached about creating more feeds back to central locations.

Although some would have you believe that remote production will replace onsite facilities, I don't really see that happening. They're not mutually exclusive and I believe they will continue to co-exist for a long time to come. However, there are practical, economic, and creative advantages to remote production. If you take our bread and butter, horse racing, as an example, it is by its nature a series of sequential events, which lends itself very nicely to a remote production model. We've been involved in a number of remote production trials that have been very successful, and it is a business model that may very well be a compelling proposition for other applications, which is one of the things we'll be discussing at IBC 2016.

A large part of that discussion will centre around our Anylive venue connectivity network, and Anylive+, which we see as a platform for sharing how our centralised production experiences around racing can benefit other aspects of broadcast production.

It's these conversations that are fundamental to our ongoing readiness for technology evolutions. We are very much devotees of collaboration with customers and partners to ensure that we mutually understand where cost efficiencies and benefits - some we may not have considered - lie in terms of centralising certain aspects of production. However, as I've said, we're equally seeing demand for ever-higher service levels for on-venue production. It very much remains a hybrid world, and will be for some time.

However, we believe that our deep experience in the racing world has evolved to create a commercial, remote connectivity model that can work for a wide range of applications.

What's fascinating is the increasingly divergent requirements of sport as opposed to, for example, news. Most sport venues, especially the newer ones, are already fully fibred whereas only a few years ago most primary contribution was delivered via satellite. The move to fibre is because the volume of output from most sports venues has expanded incredibly in just the last 18 months to satisfy a broad, and growing, range of multi-platforms demand, which by every observable measure is set to continue.

Satellite is fighting back, however, with high-throughput satellites that have the ability to offer comparable services, but its market continues to be eroded to an extent by bonded cellular or streaming technologies.

That's not to say that SNG is dying. We were at one time an SNG-focussed company and still maintain a substantial fleet of SNG trucks. We even have tertiary microwave paths available for, in effect, triple redundancy from certain high volume venues. But at the end of the day, it's the immense ability, and flexibility offered by fibre that is really driving the sports contribution market.

News, on the other hand, is somewhat different. By its very nature, news is geographically spread, which means that satellite still has a significant role to play. But while news doesn't necessarily require super high quality resolution in the way that a live sporting match does, it is also unlikely that breaking news will always occur where there is ready access to a fibre network.

So it's interesting to track how those strands are evolving, which informs how we modify our approach to connectivity relative to the remarkable changes occurring in those sectors. The bottom line for us is that it required us to move away from being a satellite-centric company to becoming a connectivity company, where we embrace multiple technologies.

And that's our focus: to continue to grow our connectivity network to provide contribution services from more and more sport venues while continuing to wrap in satellite and microwave where applicable, all while we continue to explore remote production over fibre and just how far it can be taken. Is there a need for it outside of the events that we've been involved in? We'll find out, not only in how it fits within our business aspirations, but those of our customers, partners, and vendors, too, which circles back to our ethos of collaboration.

No matter which way things go from a production standpoint, the core factor - whether fibre, satellite, or microwave - is that you have to be able to connect the dots reliably, redundantly, and consistently. Increasingly, that's with fibre. But in any case, as more and more dots get connected, the more our new broadcast universe begins to take shape.

However, to get on that grid, you first have to make sure you're connected. Based on our racing experience, if you don't, and you stumble, you might fall.


Tags: iss117 | sis live | ibc | anylive | John Bozza
Contributing Author John Bozza

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