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Ericsson becomes broadcast service provider

UK broadcasters were early adopters of the outsourcing of playout services, but other countries have been slow to adopt the model that is very common in other sectors like IT. Companies including Ascent Media, Red Bee and Technicolor have been expanding the provision of managed broadcast services across the world, but a new entrant to the broadcast area is Ericsson, even though the company has been providing services to telcos for many years.

Last week, Ericsson announced a deal with Swedish broadcaster TV4 to operate its linear playout as part of a 10-year contract. The company has been operating playout for the Nordic services of Canal+, acquired by TV4 in 2007, so this deal will extend the existing managed services. TV4 also outsources its program archive to Sun Microsystems, which operates a Storagetek storage system as a managed service for the broadcaster. Talks with Ericsson to extend the managed services to encompass the TV4 playout operation took place during 2009, and this announcement is the culmination of those negotiations. Forty employees will transfer from TV4 to Ericsson as part of the deal. TV4 airs 10 channels, including one HD service, which carries 50 percent HD-originated material. Another 16 channels, including three HD services, are aired by Canal +.

Ericsson will take over operation of TV4’s playout systems, which include Pebble Beach Neptune automation and Omneon Spectrum servers and MediaGrid storage. The primary channels are configured with mirrored systems for security of playout, and N+n redundancy is used for the thematic channels. Playlists will be delivered to Ericsson from the broadcaster’s planning system, Louise, from ProConsultant. Content is pulled from Sun content store to populate the schedule by the Pebble Beach system.

The deal is not just an outsourcing agreement, but will also be a development partnership. Ericsson's Mikael Bäckström, head of market unit Nordic and Baltics, said, "This agreement establishes Ericsson as a partner for media companies. This is a strategic step for us as we see telecom, media and Internet converge. Besides the advantages of outsourcing for TV4, we see this as a way to learn from TV4's leading industry competence."

Jan Scherman, CEO of the TV4 Group confirmed that "the partnership also means that we will jointly develop the TV solutions of the future with Ericsson." In the technology and business development forum, the two companies will evaluate new business opportunities as TV4 Group develops its offering from standard linear TV to on-demand TV, giving viewers a more personalized viewing experience.