Sinclair’s Tennis Channel

Scoring an industry first in live cloud playout

Tennis Channel, which is owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, is the only 24-hour, television-based multimedia destination dedicated to both the professional sport and tennis lifestyle. It has the most concentrated single-sport coverage in television, with telecast rights at the US Open, Wimbledon, Roland Garros (French Open), Australian Open, ATP World Tour events, WTA competitions, Laver Cup and Billie Jean King Cup.
The television operation room for Sinclair

Home to every aspect of the worldwide tennis community

Home to every aspect of the worldwide tennis community

1st high-profile sporting event via live cloud playout

1st high-profile sporting event via live cloud playout

Most concentrated single-sport coverage in television

Most concentrated single-sport coverage in television

The Challenge

When Tennis Channel outgrew the production capabilities of its Culver City, Calif., headquarters, owner Sinclair Broadcast Group took the opportunity to develop a groundbreaking new platform to meet the channel’s playout and live broadcasting requirements at Sinclair’s Santa Monica-based operations center.

The project at the Tennis Channel ― a service that features comprehensive coverage of the top 100 tournaments in the sport and more ― presented Sinclair with a new set of technical, operational, and business challenges.

So in a pioneering move that involved change management as much as technology, Sinclair decided that the Tennis Channel’s business requirements were best supported by a large-scale SMPTE ST 2110 production facility featuring a cloud-based environment for pop-up live special events.

The Solution

A powerful advocate of the SMPTE ST 2110 family of standards, Sinclair has a long history in collaborating with Imagine Communications to develop IP playout and production systems. For the Tennis Channel master control center, Sinclair decided to deploy Imagine’s Versio™ integrated playout platform at the core. Versio™ is used both on-premises for primary origination with Imagine’s field-proven ADC™ automation, and as software instances hosted in the AWS cloud for pop-up special events under the control of the cloud-optimized Versio™ Automation system. IP connectivity allows simplification of the hardware architecture, for instance, through use of the virtual re-entry software features of Imagine’s Magellan™ SDNO to create virtual patch panels, router paths and workflows.
Also central to the architecture at the Santa Monica center is Imagine’s Selenio™ Network Processor, which Roberts defines as

“…a broadcast Swiss Army Knife ― if you have a problem with a signal, throw an SNP at it.”

Each 1RU SNP device hosts four independent, software-defined processing channels. At the Tennis Channel facility, the SNPs act as IP gateways and support format conversion, which allows the facility to be primarily 1080p, but accommodate 4K and HDR UHD when needed, such as for the French Open Tennis from Roland Garros in Paris. The facility also uses the new SNP-MV multiviewer personality, allowing for tactical multiview displays to be quickly established wherever they are needed in the workflow.
"Tennis is live and unpredictable, so we need our playout capabilities to be agile and responsive. Software solutions like Versio give us that agility ― the ability to make a decision and have it on air virtually instantly."
A headshot of Don Roberts
Don Roberts
VP of sports engineering and production systems at Sinclair Broadcast Group

The Result

The new Tennis Channel ST 2110 infrastructure debuted in December 2020. Sinclair then went live to and from the cloud during coverage of the 2021 Miami Open in March, marking the first time that any broadcaster had supported such a high-profile sporting event via live cloud playout.

“Software solutions like Versio give us that agility ― the ability to make a decision and have it on air virtually instantly. And because it can be hosted in the cloud, we simply spin it up at the beginning of each tournament and close the software when it ends.”

The innovative combination of cloud playout and on-the-ground master control provided a solution that was particularly powerful in a time of COVID, which has challenged media companies to continue producing quality broadcasts, while ensuring a safe work environment for operational staff. The unique capabilities and integration of Imagine’s IP-enabled playout and core infrastructure products created a cutting-edge, agile architecture and workflow that helped make this possible.

Roberts concluded, “We see Imagine as a key partner in that process: we work closely with them, we have honest exchanges about the way forward, and we are all learning as we go along. It’s a winning team.”

Two people watching a clip on a laptop

In their own words: The backstory. 

Go behind the scenes with Sinclair Broadcast Group’s Mike Kralec, as he provides color commentary on how and why they took Tennis Channel to the cloud.

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portatif of Steve Reynolds


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.