Case Studies TV Channels

Going Global

TRT World has expanded its footprint across 10 satellites to reach 190 countries around the world. In an exclusive interview with the channel’s tech team, Vibhuti Arora finds out how the channel achieved foolproof connectivity without breaking the bank.
The TRT World team.

TRT World has expanded its footprint across 10 satellites to
reach 190 countries around the world. In an exclusive interview with the channel’s tech team, Vibhuti Arora finds out how the channel achieved foolproof connectivity without breaking the bank

Turkish broadcaster TRT World recently announced its plans to go global by launching the international news channel on 10 satellites for coverage in 190 countries across Europe, the Middle East, Asia Pacific, Africa, Australia and America. The channel, previously available only via Turksat in Turkey, has signed a multi-year agreement with Globecast to run its international distribution.

This expansion has already begun and will be completed in the coming months. In the meantime, the channel’s programming department is developing new shows to cater to a growing audience. The expanded programming grid is due to be released this year and will boast talk shows, documentaries and travel shows, among others.

TRT World has two studios in Turkey, with a third one coming up later this year. The channel also has temporary production facilities in London and Washington, DC. A third international hub in Singapore will be operational soon.

The channel’s main distribution route to Globecast is via satellite and IP over the public internet. The channel has also created diverse circuits from its headquarters in Istanbul, and from London and Washington, DC.

Roch Pellerin, Marcom and Distribution Director at TRT World, says the channel’s distribution network has been designed with the help of Turksat and Globecast to achieve a global footprint.

“Turksat and Globecast are our technical distribution partners and are responsible for building the entire network across multiple satellites. While expanding the footprint, we have to ensure that the channel’s quality is not compromised. Having partners makes managing our distribution network much easier, as we have a single point of contact. Globecast is a well-established global player that allows TRT World to benefit from its experience, infrastructure and multiple uplink sites offering a robust backup and resilient network,” he says.

Programmes are produced in-house between the TRT World studios in Istanbul, London and Washington, DC, with content received from several locations around the world. London is the channel’s main broadcast facility outside Turkey and its DR site. The London facility has two multi-purpose studios to serve the channel’s growing programming needs.

“We have built a flexible studio infrastructure to make sure the initial infrastructure costs are kept to a minimum. This, however, follows a scalable model approach to be able to cater to future needs. We plan to adopt the same approach across all the sites,” Pellerin says.

“While setting up our channel’s infrastructure, connectivity between various bureaus was the key. Sharing of content across all sites in a seamless manner was our main requirement.”

The NRCS tools had to be made accessible to all broadcast channels to allow users to see the rundowns, edit scripts and, more importantly, to maintain editorial control across all sites. This was achieved through virtualisation and connecting the sites via the public internet.

The channel is creating virtualised production systems for smaller bureaus to ensure the various production units are connected to the Istanbul and London hub, explains Mohammed Akhlaq, Director of Technology and Operations at TRT World, who gave us an overview of the tech infrastructure and operations at the channel.

“Virtualisation allows full functionality to our production teams around the world. Users can log into Istanbul or London and produce content remotely right from scripting and GFX to editing,” he says.

The broadcast IT systems have been virtualised for users to access systems from different platforms including mobile phones, iPads and laptops. Virtualisation architecture enables a centralised production system with input from several different hubs, which means multiple resources can be run as a single resource and a joint system can be seamlessly established.

Beytullah Iyigün, IT System Specialist Lead at TRT World, explains that the server, disk unit and network systems are used as a single machine. TRT World’s current architecture uses eight main servers and two disk units to run more than 150 virtual servers running various services, which allow global access to the systems, drastically bringing down the hardware cost by about a million dollars.

A core part of this installation is a Grass Valley Stratus production and content management system, which has been virtualised through a virtual graphics card and is connected via the public internet, allowing secure remote access to various sites.

The systems are secured by firewall certificates, policies and authentications. By using the application layer, the team can set access to applications for individual users and apply restrictions via licence management. This enables bureaus and field reporters to access Stratus from wherever they are, from Windows, OSX, Linux, iOS, Android and Windows Mobile.

“We were the first company to have virtualised the GV Stratus system with the help of Grass Valley’s technical team. The same architecture has been used to virtualise ERP, Edius and iNEWS as well,” Iyigün claims.

Each user is allocated 5mbps of bandwidth, enough for the production of news packages. The GV Stratus deployed at the Istanbul hub is the main production system with 60T online storage used as PAM (product asset management) and near-line storage of 450T.

A Diva Front Porch archive system is currently being installed and will be fully operational by April 2017. The new archiving system will deliver one petabyte of near-line storage and one petabyte of tape storage as well.

The channel uses Signiant file transfer Media Shuttle to transfer large media files between various sites and from field crews. The received files are automatically ingested into the main GV Stratus system, and the user is informed of the successful transfer by email.

Users can browse content at the Istanbul hub, allowing them to select media and edit it before sending it to playout. Remote users edit using proxies online on the Istanbul system, enabling an efficient system via the public internet using less than 5mbps. The channel also receives contributions using Aviwest 3G, Skype and other sources that come in handy, especially for breaking news.
Kazım Aktürk, Connectivity System Specialist at the channel, explains how the tech team established back-up links for the channel using the public internet, should the EBU fibre link fail.

“Any failure on the links would have a negative impact on live bulletins, which made it imperative for us to build a reliable back-up system. Traditional telecom costs for diverse circuits were prohibitive, which encouraged us to consider internet solutions. There are several vendors such as Ateme, Net Insight and Piko TV that offer tailored back-up solutions for broadcasters at the fraction of the cost of a dedicated fibre backup.

“We installed a bi-directional video exchange link between TRT World London studios and the Istanbul headquarters. For about a year, that technology saved on the occasions of EBU fibre link failures at no cost of bandwidth.”

Thanks to error-correcting techniques like convolutional and block coding, any lost packages via public internet can be recovered with ARQ (Automatic Repeat Request); an “undelivered” acknowledgement triggers the transmitter to resend a package, resulting in freeze-free video with negligible additional delay – two times RTT (roundtrip delay time).

“Error correcting delay was about 200ms, where RTT was 60ms. In fact, delay parameters are good enough to compete with dedicated fibre and satellite links,” explains Aktürk.

The internet, unlike traditional broadcast circuits, has negligible cost but comes with the disadvantage of shared bandwidths, thereby discouraging broadcasters who do not want to compromise fluency and quality of video transfer and live output. Conventional contribution and distribution circuits are used by a few broadcasters, but there is a steady move to IP via internet for broadcast circuits.

“We use business lease lines with guaranteed minimum bandwidth and use different providers to give a degree of resilience and circuit diversity, to make sure the security of our network is not compromised. This is more advantageous for distribution as compared to contribution links, as a couple of seconds’ delay can improve a video stream,” concludes Aktürk.