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'Innovate or die':

Reflecting on BT Media and Broadcast’s Technology Showcase.

author
Dominik Wrona
Head of Core Portfolio

It has been a year since my appointment as the Head of Portfolio at BT Media and Broadcast. When starting the role, the task at hand was (in theory) simple: deliver an exceptional media experience to a global audience.

Our mission is to provide cutting-edge technology solutions that empower customers and partners to do more, enhancing their capabilities to reach worldwide audiences.

 

But how do we do this? In the words of Bob Iger - “innovate or die”. We are focused on elevating our offering through innovation, streamlining our portfolio, and combining technologies to create new workflows. At our recent Media and Broadcast Technology Showcase, we had the opportunity to showcase this forward-thinking approach.

Vena: the future of broadcasting

At the heart of BT Media and Broadcasting is Vena, our smart broadcasting network. Vena was created in response to the increasing demand for high quality media consumption, for quickly scaling up ad hoc events as well as the move to remote production and cloud-based workflows. All of this requires a solid foundation - a backbone. Vena is a dedicated, software defined broadcasting platform that does just that. When building it, we decided not to compromise on what we could offer and from the ground up developed our most complex, expensive project to date.

 

Think of it as a toolbox for modern broadcasting. More than just a network, Vena is armed with an array of functionalities to support all needs across the broadcast workflows, with integrated APIs, a range of compression mechanisms, and a user-friendly portal for customers to oversee and manage their video and data services. This allows for full end-to-end management of all services, underpinned by a network that is resilient and flexible.

 

Vena offers fully protected services with up to 99.999% network reliability and has dynamic bandwidth scaling to ensure the delivery of high-quality video and data services during peak usage. Additionally, in the event of an unexpected interruption or outage, Vena can re-route and restore with one click, seamlessly switching to a backup route. 

 

This incredible labyrinth of technology is essential to any future developments in our industry. We are future-proofing the network whilst being flexible enough to adapt to the ongoing needs of our partners and customers. For an example of this in action, read on.

Moving UK's TV to cloud-based processing

Vena facilitated the shift of ITV and Channel 4’s terrestrial Freeview channels away from legacy hardware to cloud-based processing. Prior to this, the technology used was neither efficient nor future-proofed. The joint project with Digital 3&4 (D3&4) represents a major step forward for UK television. 

 

Indeed, the size and scale of this venture cannot be underestimated. With Vena, we were able to migrate all channels without impacting the viewers’ experience in any way. Now, D3&4 is using Vena to deliver digital coding and multiplexing - in short, combining multiple content streams into one before regional distribution. It means taking content from six playout centres and distributing it to nations and regions across the UK securely and reliably, via two of BT’s resilient data centres. On top of this, BT is providing a full end-to-end, round-the-clock monitoring service from its International Media Operations Centre. 

 

The move to process digital terrestrial TV via the cloud ultimately improves overall operational efficiency, cuts cost, lowering energy consumption and enhancing flexibility for both production and distribution. This is the first time that cloud processing of digital terrestrial TV channel has been completed on this scale.

Realising the power of 5G

We’re also innovating in other ways. Many of you will be familiar with our award-winning 5G initiatives, which reached new heights in 2022. Using the power of 5G technology, we were able to deliver truly engaging broadcast experiences, placing sports fans at the very heart of the action.

 

In May, BT Media and Broadcast smoothly executed its first 5G trial at the StoneX Stadium. Alongside BT Sport, we worked to build a 5G private network enabling wireless, untethered cameras to integrate into a single platform for an end-to-end live broadcast of a Saracens and Northampton Saints rugby match.

 

Building on this success, we facilitated the BBC’s coverage of the Commonwealth Games in August, using a second 5G private network - the first time the technology was deployed at this scale across Europe.

 

And it doesn’t stop there. Our IBC Accelerator project, 5G Production in the Middle of Nowhere, demonstrated that a highly portable ‘network in a box’ - pairing 5G non-public networks with Low-Earth Orbit satellite systems - can broadcast from the most remote locations back to production galleries or the cloud. For our customers of all sizes, 5G means the ability to scale up and down in a cost-effective way. With this in mind, don’t be surprised to see Low Earth Orbits in our TV Outside Broadcast fleet shortly.

 

As you can see, our ambitions are vast - and this is just the beginning. There are so many aspects of the broadcast ecosystem where BT Media and Broadcast has a role to play. Reflecting on the past 12 months, we have rewritten chapters in the playbook, but there are many more chapters to go.

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