Go Malta

As published in Faultline by Rafi Cohen, Rethink Research

As published in Faultline by Rafi Cohen, Rethink Research

Faultline Issue 966 - December 8th, 2022

Go Malta opts for flexi playout with Imagine Communications

Keen to keep rights holders happy, Go Malta has upgraded its playout infrastructure for the sake of its eight live sports channels. Imagine Communications is the new suiter, knocking Bulgaria’s Playbox out of the contract with its highly scalable Versio playout platform and the ADC automation technology.

With Go’s old playout system from Playbox reaching the end of its lifecycle, the operator was looking for a more flexible, scalable alternative. While the Imagine system offers no radical change for end users, Martin Abela, Senior Manager of Video Operations at Go Malta tells Faultline that Go’s backend has undergone a complete makeover.

The old Playbox system required Go to have a separate  workstation for each channel, with operatives having to manually move desks and screens if they were to switch from channel to channel. Not only was this disjointed system physically inconvenient, but it racked up huge data center real  estate, as each channel required its own server.

Individual key video mouse (KVM) switches were needed to log into each server, creating a very rigid workflow. Imagine’s  system, however, allows Go to manage multiple channels within one workstation. “It takes up less space in our server cabinets, and is more power efficient overall,” argued Abela.

This has also made redundancy protocols far easier to  implement. If one channel goes down, Go has up to four backups available spread across two servers. Two of these channels are serving the eight sports channels shared with rival operator Melita, while the other two are acting as back-ups for Go-exclusive movie channels.

Importantly, if a new range of precious channels was to come  along, the current 10+4 redundancy system from Imagine is easily scaled to meet demand.

The upgrade has also massively streamlined Go’s archiving process, with the Versio Content Portal automatically sending  assets to the Nexio video server as soon as it is ingested. This allows Go to keep a digital proxy of the files that have  traditionally been stored straight to tape. There is also now  potential for remote playout, although Abela says that for now, Go’s data center is adjacent to the playout room, making  such possibilities irrelevant for the time being.

illustration of a compass pointing to a goal

Despite the big makeover, Go is still operating strictly with SDI feeds. “We are seeing IP as the next evolution,” argued Abela. “The Imagine system has set a foundation to move to IP if we need to, but we do not yet have the right encoders and switches to send raw feeds over IP.”

While the playout system was reaching the end of its lifecycle, it seems that there is still a few years left in Go’s switches, which operate from a Cisco headend. The cost of an entire distribution upgrade was too rich for the relatively small operator, so this bitby-bit approach is focusing on laying the groundwork with a highly adaptable playout system.

“Uncompressed IP is desirable as there are no delays, but then you need the dedicated switches,” explained Abela.

The system design and build were implemented in  cooperation with Maltese systems integrator DAB Electronica. Abela says that upgrading to Imagine’s playout system proved much smoother than previous upgrades that Go has had to undertake, which he attributes to the maturity of the Versio playout platform and the ADC automation technology.

Go is one of two pay TV operators in Malta, splitting the available customer base down the middle with cable provider Melita. The other local operator Epic (formerly Vodafone) does not offer a video service.

Flagging down content providers in a relatively small market can be a struggle, so the two rival operators have a longstanding truce when it comes to sports content. Go and Melita pool their sports rights and production costs, creating eight channels that are shown across both services under the Total Sports Network umbrella.

illustration of two people putting puzzle pieces together

“We have been doing our own sports channels since 2008, which created way more demand on our playout systems,” explained Abela.

Go is responsible for the TSN channel branding using Imagine’s Versio graphics. The complete production is also sent to Melita for distribution on their TV network. The shared rights holder relationship has since grown to most premium sports leagues, including the English Premier League, UEFA Champions’ League, Serie A from Italy, Ligue 1 from France and Formula 1.

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