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Sportsnet stays ahead of the game by Roger Thornton Over the last 15 years, Sportsnet has risen to become one of Canada’s leading sports media operations. The Sportsnet and Sportsnet One TV channels are complemented by Sportsnet Radio, Sportsnet Magazine and its premium international sports channel, Sportsnet World. In May 2013, parent company Rogers Media also acquired Score Media, owner of The Score Television Network, further extending its reach in the sports broadcasting market. For the last five years, Sportsnet has been relying on a Quantel Enterprise sQ system for all its production needs. Over this period, the system has not only handled Sportsnet’s full workload, but also accommodated a doubling of operational requirements. Scoring with Hockey Ice hockey – regarded by many as Canada’s national sport – is at the heart of Sportsnet’s offering. For those who haven’t seen ice hockey, it is one of the most physically demanding of sports, with players frequently taking a pounding on a level with what a heavyweight boxer might expect. It’s an exciting, all action game that commands a huge TV audience for Sportsnet. Sportsnet also covers baseball, basketball, american football and soccer. Sportsnet also took a share in 2012 London Olympics coverage and will be a partner in the 2014 Winter Olympics coverage at Sochi in Russia. VP Operations and Engineering, Virginia Gibberd, explains Sportsnet’s approach: “Hockey is the business driver for Sportsnet. We go head to head with CBC (Canada’s state broadcaster) and often beat them on multiple games nights. A big part of our philosophy is that if you get all the content – digital, magazine, radio – then the audience can all benefit to the maximum. Our business model is national and regional – CRTC (the Canadian broadcasting regulatory body) regulates that we support regional as well as national events.” Andrew Thomas, remembers it well – he led the Operations team that made all the workflow decisions. “The team that designed One Mount Pleasant – known to everyone here as OMP – started research in 2005, and the first thing we chose was the edit system that would be at the heart of the workflow. We wanted a central ingest, edit, production and playout solution – all in HD” Thomas recalls. “As part of the selection process, we looked at several manufacturers’ systems in use with other customers. Included in this process were visits to the Quantel installations at ESPN in Bristol, CT and Fox in LA – to see how they supported highlights packages and high end productions in a single solution. Quantel was the only system that could do what we wanted.” Frank Bruno Rogers VP of TV Engineering states the Enterprise SQ system is the heart of Sportsnet. “A critical design element was the integration of this system to multiple third party systems. Quantel’s R&D team worked closely with Vizrt, Autocue, Dixon Sports, Harris Automation and Rogers Corporate IT to ensure all these systems communicated with each other reliably. “This was a fundamental requirement towards new and efficient Operational workflows” Bruno says. Starting over “What was great about starting from scratch at OMP was that we were able to throw out old workflows and start afresh. Sometimes it’s easier to change people’s lives completely rather than piecemeal,” Thomas continues. The scale of the Sportsnet operation is mind-boggling – as are the production demands that it supports. At the heart of the system is 2000 hours of 1080i HD storage on sQ servers, which are split into two zones to provide operational redundancy. The system includes 84 sQ View desktop shot selection and review applications, 11 sQ Edit advanced editors and six sQ Edit Plus HD craft editors. Between 150 and 250 hours of new footage are recorded into the system daily, across a total of 40 ports on the Enterprise sQ system under the control of Vizrt DART. ENG crews send their edited material back to Sportsnet via ftp, which is transcoded using Rhozet and then transferred into the sQ server. Similarly, edited material in Enterprise sQ is exported via ftp to Rhozet for transcoding for Sportsnet’s websites. Planning pays Sportsnet shared premises with CTV in Toronto until 2008. Three years of research and planning culminated in Sportsnet’s move into its spacious, purpose-designed premises at The Rogers Building - One Mount Pleasant - in downtown Toronto in April 2008. Director of Technical Operations, 78 | TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 81 SEPTEMBER 2013 Thomas Michalakos in Media Operations logging soccer games that have already been recorded into the system. Transmission Planner Eric Soelberg controls the Quantel record ports with DART, taking in 180 hours of footage a day - a serious media management challenge.