While at the IBC show, informitv took the opportunity to visit the brand new TVT/DMC playout centre in Amsterdam. To be honest, there was not much to see. That is really the point. Virtually all the facility is hosted in remote data centre, connected over a data network to a monitoring video wall in a separate office building. The fully internet protocol based operation enables new channels to be brought up in a matter of hours, rather than weeks or months.
Over 80 channels have been migrated to the new platform from the former Digital Media Centre facility. They include channels owned by A+E, AMC, FOX, Liberty Global, Scripps, and Sony Pictures.
London-based TVT acquired the DMC operation in Amsterdam from AMC Networks International in July to create an integrated media management, logistics and distribution platform.
Chief executive Ian Brotherston described the creation of the first fully operational virtualised playout facility as a “landmark achievement” in taking “an exciting new approach to media management and playout”.
Moving from traditional broadcast hardware boxes to a fully software defined platform hosted in a data centre offers many benefits, not least flexibility.
Conventional playout centres have traditionally connected dedicated boxes together with co-axial cables that mean operational staff are generally sited close to racks of equipment.
In an environment based purely on data connections, the control surfaces can be entirely separate from the computer hardware, which can be sited several kilometres away, or potentially on the other side of the world, connected over a fibre optic network.
Jean-Louis Lods, who is responsible for technology at TVT/DMC, explained that this offers a more agile, flexible and cost-effective approach, with the capacity to adapt to demand for additional capacity as required.
The platform uses the Orca software-based system from Pebble Beach Systems, running resiliently in virtual machines on commodity computer servers in a remote data centre. In this case, they are hosted in Equinix data centres, connected directly to major internet exchanges in Amsterdam.
So the data centre provider takes care of the resilience for power, cooling, and connectivity, while the operational staff sit in what is effectively a standard office building, which could be anywhere.
Of course, that is how web-based operations have always worked but it is rather revolutionary in the broadcast business.
With its headquarters in London, and operations in Amsterdam, Tokyo, Singapore and Sydney, TVT/DMC aims to be a global media services player.
That begs an intriguing question. If the media owner is in one country, the operational control surface is in another, and the signal is actually originated elsewhere, what is the country of origin for the purpose of regulation or legislation? Is it where the operator sits or the site of the server, either of which could potentially be relocated at the touch of a button?