Broadcasters wondering how best to adapt their infrastructures to the complexities of multiplatform delivery of live sports should take a look at new facilities the Pac-12 conference is building. Facilities in San Francisco and Denver should be ready in time for the Aug. 15 launch of a national network and six regional sports cable channels.
“They are doing a lot of things that no one has ever done before in the way they are building an infrastructure to distribute content and leverage multiple platforms,” says Richard Buchanan,VP/general manager of content services, Comcast Media Center (CMC), which is supplying key tech services for the project.
Much of this innovation reflects the need to control costs for the conference’s plans to cover a huge number of events, the complexity of handling content and commercials for so many localized channels and making TV Everywhere offerings an integral part of the Pac-12 fan experience.
“It is the first time that overthe- top technology has been designed into the broadcast network experience from day one,” notes Pac-12 Enterprises president Gary Stevenson. “We will be putting 850 events a year on the linear network and will be covering another 1,400 events from the campuses that we can stream to our Digital Network or put on linear TV.”
As part of that effort, Pac-12 is building a 2,000 square-foot studio with control room, editing bays and other facilities in San Francisco. In addition, it has cut a deal with In Demand and CMC to supply distribution services, new master control origination facilities, disaster recovery, satellite services and a fiber network that will tie the CMC facilities in Denver and the San Francisco studios to the existing Pac-12 university network.
On the digital side, Pac-12 is working with Ooyala to provide TV Everywhere offerings that will deliver a huge amount of content to Web-connected TVs, PCs, tablets, smartphones and other devices.
One key component of the effort is the fiber connectivity supplied by CMC and Comcast that allows Pac-12 to simultaneously handle multiple live game feeds and centralize coverage. “We will bring back all the camera [feeds from the stadiums] into our facilities,” says Hal Reynolds, senior VP of technology at Pac-12 Enterprises. “We switch them as if we were out in the field, and we have talent in the facility to voiceover the game, which minimizes costs.”
Another key component of the infrastructure is a media asset management system from Dalet that is being deployed at both the San Francisco and CMC facilities. The system is tightly integrated into automation, trafficking and other operations to streamline the production and delivery of content to seven TV networks, a VOD offering and multiple digital platforms.
The infrastructure also builds on CMC’s longstanding experience in live sports production. “We are now doing about 18,000 live events a year with all the sports nets and sports packages we handle,” notes CMC’s Buchanan.
The Pac-12 infrastructure at CMC “has the ability to run seven completely discreet live events from their environment, while recording 10 others and preparing them for immediate replay after those seven have concluded,” notes Paul Catterson, senior director of broadcasting, engineering and production operations at CMC.
Pac-12 also settled on the JPEG-2000 format because of its very high quality and low latency, notes Pac-12 Enterprises’ Reynolds.
The fiber connectivity and the Dalet media asset management system installed in both San Francisco and Denver allows staff to quickly access and edit proxy fi les of content ingested at CMC without having to move huge files between facilities.
For editing, the operation is using the Dalet MediaCutter, Apple Final Cut and Adobe Premier.
“The infrastructure provides a very high-quality product but is very fl exible and cost-effective because of all the tools we’ve put in place with automated components,” notes Catterson.
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