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Ericsson looks to expand outsourcing provision

Many broadcasters have outsourced processes to managed service providers, particularly in the area of playout. However, many other services are also outsourced: language versioning, media management, archiving and multiplatform delivery. Because many are a little coy to admit they have outsourced, the scale of the practice is not always obvious. For the broadcaster, it frees much of the complexity of running technical platforms, especially with the current pace of change, and leaves then to concentrate on running channels, selling spots and developing new services for non-linear and mobile delivery.

Ericsson’s managed service arm, Ericsson Broadcast Services, recently hosted a tour around its playout facility in London. Thorsten Sauer, Head of Broadcast Services, opened the session by setting linear broadcast in the context of the networked society. Predicting 50 billion connected devices (15 billion being video-capable) by 2020, he posed the question: “What is the future of television? The success of Google and Netflix points to a new direction. More distribution will be by IP networks and to connected devices.”

He stressed how several things become more important: “quality, convenience — which is simple access to content and a seamless experience, plus we need more agility, we need new models, new ways to access content and to monetize content.” He wants client to look upon Ericsson as ‘not just an outsourcing partner” but aiding their media business to grow and innovate.

(RELATED: Thorsten Sauer speaks at NAB2013)

The Division

Ericsson Broadcast Services has around 1000 staff across sites in Sweden, France, Netherlands and the UK. The company broadcasts over 200 channels for its clients, with a mix of live content — typified by news station France 24, and ITV in the UK — as well as thematic channels. Clients include NBCUniversal, NPO and NOS in the Netherlands, TV 4 Sweden, Canal + and TV5 Monde.

The UK operation at Chiswick Park was one of the operations that Ericsson acquired from Technicolor. The facility in West London airs nearly 100 channels to three continents for broadcasters. Many channels are multilingual with up to 15 different languages. That totals 2,500 hours per day, with 9,000 hours per year of live content. A second site in Northern England, at Leeds, provides a regional center for ITV as well as disaster recovery.

Sauer added that although they are now pan-European, “we have a global ambition.”

Ericsson already has 2000 television customers worldwide, primarily from their compression business. “We look to leverage lessons from delivering managed services in the telecommunications sector to our broadcast customers.” Contrasting telco and broadcast, Sauer explained many aspects were no different but “in broadcast, Ericsson owns the platform, in telecommunications, it operates the customer’s platform.”

Sauer concluded “we aim to provide value for broadcasters in lower CAPEX and OPEX, we can offer then increased agility and speed to market, and we can support them with innovation and new services.”

The broadcast center at Chiswick Park processes 13,000 assets per month, and provide a range of services to broadcasters. The workflow includes ingest, QC, editorial compliance, subtitling and dubbing, distribution and archiving. 300 video circuits enter and leave the building. Although much of the operation is linear broadcast, increasingly it will be more that just playout as content is prepared for VOD and OTT delivery.