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HBO Taps Thomson for HD Expansion

HBO, which has announced plans to offer all 26 of its networks in high-definition by mid-2008, is buying more than $5 million in new HD playout and production equipment from Thomson Grass Valley to support its HD ramp-up.

 The premium cable network, which had previously used Grass Valley Profile video servers and Venus routers, is buying 30 Grass Valley K2 HD Media Servers, including eight 4-channel servers for its network playout operations; a dozen 2-channel time delay servers (for multiple time zone support); two 4-channel ingest servers; two 40-channel breakaway servers (for late-breaking and live events); two 2-channel on-demand servers; and four 4-channel recovery servers.

 “For HBO, moving to the new K2-based distribution systems from Grass Valley will result in an improved electronic workflow and allow us to put safeguards in place to ensure the reliable distribution of our content,” said Charles Cataldo, HBO Senior Vice President, Studio and Broadcast Operations, in a statement. “We wouldn’t trust our playout operations to anything but Grass Valley server technology because we’ve grown comfortable with the mission-critical performance they will provide. Moving to the new K2 server systems is the next logical step in our evolution to high definition.”

 The systems will be installed at HBO's network origination facility in Hauppauge, N.Y. The Long Island facility will also upgrade its signal distribution infrastructure with the installation of a new 512x512 Trinix HD routing switcher, populated with a 256x256 HD I/O matrix for its core routing; two new 128x128 Trinix routers for master control activities; and a Grass Valley Apex audio router. These new systems will work in tandem with the facility’s ten-year-old Grass Valley Venus routers.

 HBO will also be buying Grass Valley HD gear to upgrade its production studios in New York City, and has ordered five Grass Valley LDK 8000 WorldCam multiformat HD cameras for original content prodution. An existing Grass Valley Concerto Series router at the production facility will also be expanded with new modules for HD signal conversion.

 HBO has already begun its migration from the Profile servers to the latest-generation Grass Valley K2 Media Server and Media Client systems and expects to complete the process by year-end.