Has IP become the technology choice for today’s sports venues? We asked the experts.

American football player under blue and green digital dots

At the 2024 NAB Show, I got the chance to sit down with two panels of industry experts to get their real-world perspectives on the current state of IP in broadcast and beyond.

In a two-part blog series, I’ll share the key takeaways from each. We’ll kick off with a focus on sports venues ...

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Steve Reynolds  LinkedIn Icon

President, Imagine Communications

Meet the Experts

portrait of Ian Cobb

Ian Cobb

Sr. IT Systems Architect

portrait of Aron Kennedy

Aron Kennedy

Chief Broadcast Engineer
Insignia Event Services

Portrait of John Mailhot

John Mailhot

CTO Networking & Infrastructure
Imagine Communications

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Yousuf Khan

VP of Technical Marketing

IP is for Everyone

It’s no longer a question of whether IP is the path forward or if it’s only suitable for tier-1 broadcasters or large projects. The panelists all agreed that IP is the future — and it’s well on the way to achieving true democratization.

With IT networks delivering amazing speeds and a wide range of switches available — whether three 200Gb ports are needed or 32 400Gb ports — ST 2110 has found a home in a wide range of applications of varying sizes, including sports stadiums.

John Mailhot described the industry’s current perspective on IP this way: “It’s really moved from ‘This only works for big projects,” to ‘This really works out for almost every project.’ It’s great to see that story arc to where IP is now a mainstream technology.”

“My personal feeling is that everything's going to go in that direction. It just will.”

Whatever is on Your Operational Horizon, IP Offers the Path of Least Resistance

In the media industry, nothing is really day-to-day anymore — producers shake things up on a regular basis. For engineering departments still working in baseband, that often means explaining that the router is full and that a new request can’t be fulfilled.

With IP, there are no such constraints. You can deploy your network, change your network, increase the capacity, decommission endpoints — all with a click of a few buttons.

Aron Kennedy provided great color commentary on IP in action. He said that while the setup at State Farm Stadium is fairly consistent for each Arizona Cardinals game, when the stadium hosts other events — which can vary dramatically in size — the system must be able to pivot between their different needs very quickly. IP provides that flexibility.

Case in point: For the Men’s Final Four NCAA Tournament, which took place at State Farm Stadium this year, Ian Cobb and the Alpha team were able to easily add 64 channels to the stadium’s system in 20 minutes by simply utilizing a few more 100Gb ports on an existing switch.

“A full-scale IP infrastructure allows a broadcast engineering organization to go from being the department of ‘No, we can’t really do that,’ to the department of ‘Yes, we can.'”

IP Makes Economic Sense in Any Size Operation

The panelists agreed that in even the smallest of projects, it simply makes economic sense to use IP — especially as the industry moves to UHD. In addition, the cost of switches will only continue to drop, while their capacity will continue to double every 18 to 24 months.

Redundancy was also a critical consideration among these panelists, who are all well experienced in the business of live production. As Aron Kennedy put it, “You can’t fail in these events. You just can’t fail.” Here too, IP is the right economic choice.

Today, redundancy is built into almost every ST 2110 device, and you simply stack switches to achieve full end-to-end redundancy. Ian Cobb drove the IP economics point home, saying, “In the baseband world, it would require a lot more heavy metal to pull that off.”

“Even smaller universities are adopting this technology because they don't want to bear the cost of revamping their infrastructure. And IP gives them a way to migrate from HD to UHD using their existing infrastructure.”

A Wait-and-See Approach to IP is no Longer an Option if You Want to Stay in the Game

The days of broadcasters cautiously dipping their toes into IP, while others wait safely from the sidelines to see what happens, are over. Today, IP is mature, proven and driving success across the industry.

Still not sure? I leave you with some parting words from the experts …

Yousuf Khan: “The beautiful thing about IP is that it can scale up or down based on your requirements. And we do it in such a way — thanks to the standards body work — that the workflow of the broadcasting industry has not changed. Customers can continue to deploy the same workflow that they’re used to. We enable them, but we don’t disrupt them.”

Aron Kennedy: “That control room has to exist and be scalable and flexible for 10 to 15 years, whatever that timeframe is. And if you don’t jump in now, you’re going to be outdated in the next couple years.”

John Mailhot: “I don’t know if UHD is going to take off this year or next year, but in the planning horizon of most of these stadiums, it’s a real consideration. Whether it’s a design criteria on the first day or a ‘got to be able to support it when it comes’ — it’s one of those two things. So again, it’s about moving to a fabric that’s got more than enough capacity.”

Ian Cobb: “There’s no other way to future-proof your investment than to invest in a well-hardened IP infrastructure to put your organization on the right foundation for the future.”

Watch the whole video:
The Remarkable Journey to IP
– Originally recorded at the 2024 NAB Show

Up next is part 2 in our series

IP Everywhere: Focus on Houses of Worship
May 28, 2024 - By Steve Reynolds
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Steve Reynolds

Steve Reynolds is President of Imagine Communications, a global leader in multiscreen video and ad management solutions that broadcasters, networks, video service providers and enterprises around the world rely on to support their mission-critical operations.

Steve brings 25 years of technology leadership in the video industry to Imagine Communications. He has served as the CTO at Imagine Communications and Harris Broadcast, Senior Vice President of Premises Technology at Comcast, Senior Vice President of Technology at OpenTV, and CTO at Intellocity USA.

Steve earned a MS in Computer Engineering from Widener University and BS in Computer Science from West Chester University. As the Chairman of the AIMS Alliance and a member of SMPTE and SCTE, he has participated in numerous standards-making bodies in the cable and digital video industries. Steve also holds over 40 patents relating to digital video, content security, interactive television and digital devices.