Out of Necessity, Broadcasters Choose Phased Approach To IP

With a sharp focus on IP-based operations and the impact they have on a variety of broadcast operations and workflows, broadcasters are operating in one of the most dramatic periods of technological change that the international broadcast industry has ever experienced.

A number of equipment suppliers have stepped up to help move the industry forward, into the new realm of IP. To do this, however, they’ve had to step up internal R&D efforts and reshape their manufacturing processes to better serve customers.

Understanding that broadcasters will not simply throw away their existing baseband equipment for IP, Rohde & Schwarz, based in Germany, is one of those companies that has recommended that customers take an evolutionary approach and migrate slowly while still maintaining their existing baseband SDI infrastructures. Indeed, the company has developed products and system solutions that support this concept for its customers’ enterprise operations.

The best approach to IP, according to Hannes Strobel, Vice President of Headend and Monitoring at Rohde & Schwarz, is applying the most appropriate technologies to meet a particular application.

“When approached in this way, IP can bring significant benefits,” Strobel said.

A recent project that used this multi-phase approach was facilitated by Rohde & Schwarz to implement an all-IP installation at Munich-based broadcaster, RTL II for its OTT channel playout and monitoring activities. This has allowed the broadcaster to expand its OTT services while enabling the staff to monitor and control a range of broadcast signals and Internet streams on the same device without any external converters. This helps RTL II ensure high quality and a pleasant consumer experience across both its linear broadcast and digital OTT platforms.

This project is using the Rohde & Schwarz Prismon platform, which provides AV content monitoring and multiviewer features built into a newly designed OTT channel playout system. Available as either a scalable on-premise IT hardware platform or for cloud deployments, the R&S Prismon is an IP-based monitoring solution for broadcast and streaming media/OTT. It offers multi-standard support, including SDI and ASI, AIMS/SMPTE 2110, TSoIP and OTT upload/download. Its software-defined architecture enables monitoring functions such as LiveQM and Content Compare. The platform also features an orchestration-ready design for dynamic and flexible resource allocation in virtual environments.

Hannes Strobel, Vice President of Headend and Monitoring at Rohde & Schwarz, said the key to a successful IP migration is to apply the right technologies to meet a particular application. It’s not one-size-fits-all.

Hannes Strobel, Vice President of Headend and Monitoring at Rohde & Schwarz, said the key to a successful IP migration is to apply the right technologies to meet a particular application. It’s not one-size-fits-all.

RTL has integrated the R&S Prismon within a Nevion VideoIPath SMPTE 2022-7 video routing system and an HMS channel-in-a-box server, allowing them to playout a linear content stream with commercial spots delivered by an internet-based ad server. The stream can be viewed via an app on iOS and Android devices as well as on Fire TV and various browsers. The App enables time-shift and direct access to RTL II’s VOD service.

“Prismon makes it easier for us to monitor broadcast streams and OTT streams within the same device,“ said Dirk Kolditz, Vice President Technology Operations, RTL II. “We believe that today broadcasters cannot look at broadcast signals such as satellite or cable networks in a different way to OTT signals, especially since the number of OTT channels will increase significantly in coming years.”

Kolditz said that monitoring and controlling both OTT and broadcast signals within the same infrastructure makes it even easier on the staff.

“We have no need to train engineers on several platforms for monitoring purposes,” he said. “Since Prismon is located within our network infrastructure, even remote monitoring can be performed. And it does not have to take place within special control rooms or even within our premises.“
Due to its software-based architecture, the Prismon system is allowing RTL to future-proof its business and support on-going growth. By offering specific licenses that address individual tasks, RTL can upgrade the platform as new modules become available. For example, SMPTE 2110 will be supported soon and can be implemented by RTL very easily and without affecting RTL’s daily operations. A service level agreement with Rohde & Schwarz gives RTL access to future developments and software updates, and also ensures all the technical and operational support they need.

“This is very important for us, especially during the implementation period of the new SMPTE 2110 technology,“ said Kolditz.

There’s no doubt that IP offers many benefits for the production and distribution of signals, but the real skill is in applying it ways that make sense in a real-world broadcast environment. A phased-in approach is one that many are embarking upon because there is a lot of legacy baseband SDI equipment that will continue to be used for years to come. The trick for broadcasters like RTL is identifying which parts of the content chain IP makes the most sense to deploy today and which ones can wait until the format is more mature and established within the industry.

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