Customer Profile

Sky is Europe’s leading entertainment company, serving 23 million customers across seven countries — UK, Ireland, Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain and Switzerland. The company offers European television viewers the best and broadest range of content and uses innovative technology to deliver customers a better TV viewing experience, whenever and wherever they choose. To advance this, Sky UK wanted to virtualize its two playout facilities, providing cohesion for operators, leading to better performance, operational efficiencies and the elimination of errors.

Business Challenge

Sky UK transmits hundreds of channels, both originated and pass-through. Monitoring its playout operations was an increasing challenge, as its infrastructure had grown organically through a number of discrete applications.

The need was to bring all the playout and monitoring into a single, coherent workflow, such that any operator could monitor any feed, from either its main or backup facilities. Adding sophisticated alarm capabilities and tight integration into Sky’s network management system would free operators from the need to visually monitor every feed.

Virtualization was seen as the best way to achieve this, as well as providing a solid foundation for the business’s continuing move towards IP connectivity.

“The work we’ve done to transition our monitoring and control operations to IP will prove to be invaluable for the future of our business. ”
Martin Richards, Head of Broadcast Technologies at Sky UK

Technology Solution

The system is based on the SMPTE ST 2022 standard for encapsulation of SDI signals in IP packets. The conversion between SDI and IP is handled in Imagine’s Selenio™ MCP3 processing systems, equipped with uncompressed-over-IP (UCIP) cards.

With all the feeds now IP streams, Sky can route them through ethernet switches from Arista Networks, enabling virtual monitoring and control of mission-critical signals. For the operators, physical boundaries are now eliminated, allowing them to monitor signals from anywhere regardless of their origination. 

At the heart of the transformation of Sky’s operations is Imagine’s ultrascalable, hybrid SDI-IP EPIC™ MV multiviewer. At Sky, it initially supports 24/7 monitoring of 288 unique signals, with the capability to scale to much larger requirements in the future. It seamlessly communicates with Sky’s network management system, generating alarms on disturbed feeds through constant signal probing and thereby reducing the number of feeds operators need to monitor, minimizing repetitive tasks and the chance for errors.

The Magellan™ SDN Orchestrator provides a layer of traditional broadcast control on top of the IP infrastructure, shielding Sky’s operators from the complexity of the underlying routing system, managing the IP data fabric as if it were a traditional video routing matrix.

Business Value

The transition of Sky UK’s playout centers to IP enabled it to transform the way its playout team monitors and controls customer content, while significantly improving operational efficiency. Much of that improvement was achieved through the agility and versatility benefits of moving channel feeds to the IP domain, which is inherently more flexible than traditional SDI infrastructure.

The openness of critical monitoring and control systems, including Imagine’s EPIC MV multiviewer and the Magellan SDNO, also provided Sky with the ability to bring greater unity to its monitoring operations, allowing network operators to make more productive use of their time and eliminate errors. 

EPIC MV enables Sky UK to create automated monitoring environments by adapting to changing operational conditions. Sky has some hugely popular sports channels, and this platform allows Sky to optimize its monitoring and control to meet specific requirements of live sports. 

The transition of its monitoring and control systems to a software-defined, IP-connected environment gives Sky valuable insight and experience toward the future transformation of its playout operations, and hands-on experience in critical operations for the transport of video, audio and metadata over IP.

“Virtualization has allowed us to build a monitoring and control application which is powerful and resilient, readily adapted as our needs change, but also compact and energy efficient. ”
Martin Richards, Head of Broadcast Technologies at Sky UK

Need help figuring out the right playout model for your business? Check out our handy Planning Guide.

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