Alongside beIN Media Groups commercial strategy to enter the entertainment space, its technical infrastructure and workflows also needed to be prepped to accommodate its expansion into additional content genres. The network, therefore, needed to move away from a temporary and manual playout system focused solely on sports delivery, to a state-of-the-art production and playout centre […]
Alongside beIN Media Groups commercial strategy to enter the entertainment space, its technical infrastructure and workflows also needed to be prepped to accommodate its expansion into additional content genres. The network, therefore, needed to move away from a temporary and manual playout system focused solely on sports delivery, to a state-of-the-art production and playout centre catering to all content genres, explains Israel Esteban, Executive Director of Technology at beIN Media Group.
The majority of the workflows in the previous system required a lot of manual intervention and did not support the expected growth of the network, he elaborates.
The technologies previously used were not flexible and restricted the agility of the business to grow. At the core of the new infrastructure is a file-based production and broadcasting platform, using the latest broadcasting standards, for bringing programmes of all genres to our viewers around the world. Specially designed for the production and delivery of all content, live sports productions, movies and entertainment, this integrated system architecture is based on concepts that offer rapid production processes, extremely high accessibility and collaborative working.
The system is fully redundant with no single point of failure, he points out.
For live operations, each channel can be operated by its own dedicated operator, whilst for non-live transmissions, administrator clients with enhanced user rights can take control of multiple channels for more efficient operation.
Additionally, the system architecture will enable beIN to share our ever-expanding content offering to our viewers on multiple platforms of their choice.
The project delivered three major broadcast components a Traffic & Scheduling system, Transmission Automation and a Media Asset Management (MAM) system.
This investment in file-based technologies significantly enhances our ability to share the same content on multiple platforms to our viewers without the overhead of traditional technologies and workflows, says Esteban.
Whilst the studios were very well appointed, Esteban explains that an overhaul was required almost everywhere else. The result of huge rapid expansion has meant incumbent solutions have been pushed beyond their original specifications and have been in use for longer than originally intended.
The new workflow ensured that predefined processes were put in place, and automation was key. This facilitates the handling of data and enables easy access to content, as well as processing and distribution, via a web-based application at the networks Doha facility.
In order to be able to produce live content at unparalleled speeds, and to manage the required throughput for its entertainment channels, beIN has equipped its production and operations staff with the necessary tools to access incoming content, as well as all near-line and archived content already in the system.
This enables browser-based management of all files and metadata, not only on-site through internal networks, but also for external users with a protected web client, explains Esteban.
Also integrated in this process is our broadcast management software. This application makes it possible for an operator to centrally manage the complete programme scheduling, contracts and rights management, as well as advertising and promo campaign planning. In addition to the programme planner deciding which content should be broadcast on which channel at what time, the same lists are used to prepare multiple material requests, which are sent via a SOAP interface in XML format to our MAM, which then triggers the ingest process of the desired material.
This content then undergoes an automated QC process, with additional manual checks where required, before finally being released for TX, he adds.
All channels are full HD quality with Dolby Digital+ capability. An underlying infrastructure has also been installed to support Ultra HD/4K.
To support the migration to the new system, beIN undertook a legacy archive project by digitising approximately 22,000 hours of specially selected content from its back catalogue, which was on videotape predominately HDCam.
It was important that our production teams had instant access to the required material in file format to take full advantage of the new workflows from day one. The older tape archive is still accessible and can be ingested upon request, says Esteban.
A key element of this project was training, which continues to be a key focus of the Group. In addition to the transformation of the technologies, this project was fundamentally about the transformation of skills and processes.
The way beIN now acquires, manages and prepares content for playout, distribution and consumption has changed beyond recognition, and it was essential we invested heavily in training and addressed the required skills and resource levels to support this new workflow.
This system first went live last summer with some of beINs sports channels. This was followed by the entertainment platform launch on November 1. The new systems have been designed to allow easy future upgrades and the addition of more channels.
With sophisticated software controls, the content and scheduling of all channels will be optimised and the exchange of content between the channels will be transparent and allow for ease of operation, thereby saving time and money, and simplifying the distribution to multiple platforms in multiple regions, explains Esteban.
This implementation took 18 months from the scoping and tendering phase to delivery, but enables greater flexibility and has been designed to accommodate significant expansion of content to multiple platforms and devices.
A primary objective of the project was to implement an automated file-based system whilst structurally and technically ruling out all single points of failure. To this end, the technology concept is a fully redundant system that offers the highest service standards and guarantees maximum availability, explains Esteban.
To support this, we implemented a global monitoring and health management system, which enables the monitoring and control of our AV and IT systems and associated workflows from across the campus from a single workstation.
While the first phase of this project delivered capacity for 40 playout channels from beINs facility in Doha, the second phase, which has already commenced, will increase this capacity to cater to the networks future needs.