Viasat – Multicast infrastructure with synchronized digital archives.
Modern Times Group MTG AB is among the leading international broadcasters of channels with the largest broadcast coverage area in Europe.
Viasat is a subsidiary of MTG with a large free-TV and pay-TV offer in the Scandinavian and Baltic countries. It has broadcasting operations in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Russia, Ukraine and Ghana. The offer of Viasat attracts a total of 125 million viewers in 31 countries.
MTG is the majority shareholder of the largest television broadcaster in Russia (CTC Media), and the number one radio operator and Internet reseller of entertainment products in the Nordic countries.
In April 2009, BCE was selected in a tender procedure among five systems integrators for the installation of a multicast infrastructure in Latvia, the duplication of several thousands of frequency bands and the implementation of a system for synchronizing the new digital archives located in Riga with those established in London.
CHALLENGE – Create a multicast platform for Baltic countries, a resilience system for London and a system for synchronization of content between London and Riga.
In the late nineties, Viasat launched several television channels in the Baltic countries. In this context, the company installed distribution and production centers in each country, thus allowing improved customization of content and control of costs for physical distribution between the various entities.
In a time of transition to tapeless systems, Viasat decided to create synergies with a unique multicast platform located in Riga, Latvia. However, each country was to maintain its own production and post production facilities to ensure identity of content. These centers will be connected to the multicast platform and the digital archives by dedicated links, allowing to abandon nearly all physical exchanges in favor of file distribution, thus considerably reducing transport costs.
In order to ensure the rapid putting into service of the platform in Riga, the 3000 tapes stored in the digital archives in London will have to be duplicated before the end of the project and made available in the archives located in Latvia.
“In order to be able to duplicate content within the allotted time, BCE installed a temporary infrastructure in London and subsequently moved the tapes to the archives in Riga” says Jean-Marc Gacher, Special Projects Manager, BCE.
In addition, Viasat will also establish a resilience infrastructure in Riga for the major channels broadcast from London – a security measure at broadcasting level, but also with regard to all content stored in their respective digital archives.
Finally, in order to decongest the existing multicast platform in London, the Riga facilities will have to be expandable and allow the launch of new channels on different markets.
“The high-level expertise of BCE in a variety of areas, namely in media engineering, information technology, telecommunications, broadcasting and transmission, has allowed to find the best solutions to ensure a perfect symbiosis between the new platform and the existing system in London,” explains Tun Van Rijswijck, COO, BCE.
SOLUTION – Installation of a 24-channel multicast including eight channels for a resilience system.
High speed duplication
The duplication of 24,000 hours of content, a task for which a time period limited to 14 months was scheduled, could be completed in less than seven months.
To achieve this, BCE used the equipment meant to be installed at the Riga platform to set up a temporary duplication infrastructure in London and to allow easy access to the current digital archives. The 3000 tapes were then shipped to the new archives in Latvia.
In addition, each video file is accompanied by its low-resolution version to allow easy consultation of data, available to the production units located in all other countries.
Efficiency and security in real time
To ensure synergies between the different entities and the multicast platform, content is centralized in a digital archive based in Riga.
This library has two main functions: first, to optimize the workflow of the players in the other Baltic countries by allowing them access to all content through low-resolution files, that are available via a detailed search interface.
The production teams can thus easily identify the video pieces and download only the desired sequences in high resolution. After editing, these high resolution files are returned to Riga for archiving and/or broadcasting purposes. In view of the multilingual environment of these regions, the contents stored in Riga can also integrate up to 13 additional languages.
The second function of this archive is to secure the digitized heritage content stored in London. Indeed, the two digital libraries are permanently interconnected. When a file is newly added to the English platform, the Latvian platform is automatically updated and vice versa.
To ensure perfect synchronization between the two archives, BCE uses its system for transferring content via the Internet (Movie2Me) by adapting it to the dedicated line and ensuring increased availability of bandwidth. That way, the team managed to master the latency issues due to the distance separating the two archives and ensure continuity of updates between each platform.
“Viasat cannot afford latency that can lead to delays or even lack of availability of its content; the maximization of bandwidth by using Movie2Me is a blessing, both at the technological and financial level”, says Gusty Feinen, Manager Special Projects, BCE.
A three-tier distribution
The objective of the project was to combine the five channels in Latvia, the two channels in Estonia and the other two in Lithuania within one central unit. To do this, BCE has installed a multicast platform with nine channels.
In addition to this basic configuration, the station has eight additional channels that can duplicate the major channels broadcast from London. This configuration allows to cope with any situation and thus to ensure continuity of operation in target markets.
Finally, in order to meet the requirements of VIASAT for the launch of new channels, BCE has extended the system to include seven additional channels, thus giving them a comfortable lead for the future.
With its multicast platform of 24 channels, Viasat has created important synergies between its various entities in the Baltics. This genuinely future-oriented infrastructure allows them to optimize their workflow with the transition to a tapeless environment, to enhance security as regards their main channels and their content as well as the launch of new channels in the near future.