Saudi Broadcasting Authority Selects Imagine Communications

Prestigious Gulf region broadcaster upgrades to compact, software-centric multichannel networking and a playout solution to increase efficiencies through centralized workflows.

Saudi Broadcasting Authority (SBA), part of the Ministry of Media in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is replacing the playout technology for its main channels with an integrated solution from Imagine Communications. SBA is one of the most prestigious broadcasters in the Gulf region, on a mission to boost daily operational efficiencies and eliminate human error for reliable and professional broadcasting.

To meet the requirements of SBA, Imagine Communications was able to propose a coherent end-to-end system covering network infrastructure, routing, monitoring, ingest, asset management and playout under ADC automation control, to replace the current system based on hardware from multiple vendors. The Imagine Communications proposal is largely based on software solutions running on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware, using industry-standard workstations from Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE). It includes a Platinum IP3 router to switch SD, HD and 3G signals, with the capability of adding real-time IP switching to support SBA’s development plans. Additionally, the IP3 router provides integrated multiviewer functionality to ensure all monitoring is handled in a space-saving frame.

“We have an excellent reputation for the quality of our programming and delivery,” said Hatim Abounassf, vice president for engineering affairs for the Saudi Broadcasting Authority. “To build for our future, we need a scalable network infrastructure and playout architecture that will allow us to use sophisticated automation to make our operations as efficient as possible, while maintaining the very highest standards. We felt that a single, end-to-end system was the best approach, and Imagine Communications proposed a tightly integrated solution, based on modern COTS hardware ― a major step towards the IP world. Imagine understood our requirements, and we are confident that we have established a strong platform for the future.”

Installation Details

The new SBA installation uses the ADC automation system from Imagine Communications, one of the most widely used playout automation solutions, proven in many major broadcast installations worldwide. At SBA, it is linked with Nexio+ AMP video servers backed by Versio IOX SAN storage, with content management by Nexio Motion. To handle all media workflows, the tight integration of these three core applications makes for an architecture that is readily scalable, allowing it to adapt to SBA’s evolving business needs. Today the system is configured for 24 channels and will transmit 12+12 HD channels with full redundancy; in the future, it can be easily extended to accommodate new standards and more channels, without impacting the current output.

Further, Nexio Motion incorporates automated workflows, such as quality control, archive management and file transcoding, through the integrated software tools including SelenioFlex File. This means that new content is rapidly checked and converted to the house format, and SBA can deliver content on a whole range of platforms including mobile and OTT, as well as linear broadcasting. The close integration of the system ensures that each workflow is completed in a timely manner, to defined rules, with the minimum of operator intervention, achieving flawless performance and high efficiency.

Content Management

Content is managed on an array of Nexio+ AMP servers with a total of 60 bidirectional channels specified by SBA. The HPE server front-end is connected to a shared SAN storage array with RAID 60 protection for highly resilient 24/7 operation. This is backed by a high-performance network solution, delivering unprecedented levels of bandwidth to ensure total on-air reliability. All video processing and transcoding is completed in SelenioFlex File, with Selenio™ 6800+™ modules primarily providing the fiber link infrastructure, and switching and multiviewer capabilities are integrated in the Platinum IP3 router. The new installation puts Imagine equipment at every level from video interfacing to system control, ensuring the system is coherent, operationally efficient and inherently resilient.

Anas Hantash, head of MESA and North Africa at Imagine Communications, added, “We have worked closely with SBA for an extended period, running seminars and workshops to identify precisely the operational practices and workflows they need. By bringing together the ideas from different teams across the enterprise, we were able to refine everyone’s contribution and propose a solution that precisely meets not only today’s requirements, but also the future vision of SBA. This integrated project is one of its kind in the region.”

The new infrastructure is being implemented at SBA by Imagine Communications in partnership with INC System Integrations. Testing and rehearsals with the new platform started at the beginning of 2020 and will be on air in the second quarter of the year.

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