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MBC Group Moves to Full Pebble Beach Marina Playout Operations

The largest free-to-air television broadcaster covering the Arab countries, MBC Group, is now distributing its channels on a recently installed Pebble Beach Marina playout system. At the end of 2017 it finished the last phase in a staggered installation programme to transmit all programming from a Marina automation controller.

Originally established in 1991 as a single pan-Arabic channel, MBC 1, broadcasting news and general programming from London, Middle East Broadcasting Centre relocated to a new base in Dubai in 2002. From its early days it has grown into a media group broadcasting a variety of TV and radio stations. It is an independent company and also operates a free video on demand service, Shahid.net, and a production and post-production subsidiary, O3 Production.

MBC previously used Imagine Communications ADC systems for playout but during that period started to use Pebble Beach Systems' Neptune automation. There has now been a complete move to Pebble Beach Systems' Marina system. This was done, explains Nick Barratt, senior manager of broadcast at MBC Group (pictured above third from left), to build a "single, unified operator interface" that could work with any technology. "Unifying under the common user experience of an open system, with an extensive and evolving library of API integrations, allows us to take advantage of the technology changes currently happening in the broadcast world, regardless of the manufacturer," he says.

MBC and Pebble Beach Systems collaborated on the transition to Marina. This process began with services running in parallel on the existing and new systems before the Al Arabiya and Al Hadath news channel went over to full Marina control. "This highlighted any issues and resulted in a complete non-event during switchover," comments Barratt. Emad Dabbah, senior manager of transmission and digital archive (above second from left), adds, "As we embarked on the migration we worked closely with Pebble to fine-tune the system's performance for fast-paced news environments."

According to Pebble Beach System's regional manager for the Middle East and South Asia, Samir Isbaih (above right), Neptune is "the dominant automation solution" in this region, so "an intelligent migration strategy" to Marina had to be developed that caused little or no disruption to operations. This involved moving the Neptune database in its entirety to the new system and allowing playlist from that product to be opened natively in Marina, with both systems able to access the archive.

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