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ESPN Taps Motorola for MPEG-4 Transition

CHICAGO—ESPN will use Motorola Mobility’s video distribution system to transition all programming from ESPN and ESPN-2 networks to an MPEG-4 HD format in order to increase bandwidth and offer more HD services. The move also will position ESPN to offer both 1080p60 HD and 3DTV when service providers are ready for it.

“Motorola’s MPEG-4 HD distribution system will allow us to consolidate our distribution while efficiently delivering the highest quality 1080p60 HD sports programming,” said Chuck Pagano, executive vice president, technology, ESPN. “This enables us to future proof for delivery of services as well as providing our affiliates the option of lower resolution services to support existing video infrastructure systems.”

The Motorola Mobility solution is comprised of the SE-6601A MPEG-4 encoder to preserve video quality while decreasing bandwidth consumption, the DSR-6100 integrated receiver/decoder (IRD) that uses MPEG-4 to MPEG-2 transcoding to bridge to legacy operator services, and a highly flexible software control system. As both ESPN and ESPN-2 transition to all MPEG-4 HD over the next several years, Motorola’s system will distribute full resolution HD programming while simultaneously providing legacy MPEG-2 HD and SD services to ESPN affiliate operators, all without requiring additional satellite bandwidth.

Motorola’s modular uplink and control system, coupled with the DSR-6100 IRD, will allow ESPN to manage its content in order to deliver HD programming that is more relevant to consumers in a particular region.

“ESPN’s early commitment to all MPEG-4 HD distribution is a pioneering step toward the realization of a full resolution 2D or 3D video delivery ecosystem,” noted Joe Cozzolino, senior vice president and general manager, Network Infrastructure, Motorola Mobility. “This is a revolutionary yet practical approach for ESPN to maintain support for existing cable delivery systems while enabling premium 1080p60 HD or 3D TV consumer experiences in the home.”

As part of the migration, all ESPN and ESPN-2 programming will be processed with Motorola's SE-6601A HD MPEG-4 AVC encoder capable of 1080p60 and 3D encoding. Designed specifically for markets requiring high quality MPEG-4 compression of real-time content, the SE-6601A receives video content and converts it to the MPEG-4 format for distribution via satellite to ESPN’s affiliates. At the downlink sites, the content will be received and processed with Motorola's DSR-6100, which receives MPEG-4 720p60 or 1080p60 video (including 3D), and then transcodes to MPEG-2 HD, SD and/or analog NTSC to support whatever video infrastructure the service provider has in place. The DSR-6100 uses the in-band active format descriptor (AFD) to translate input HD services to an appropriate standard definition (SD) service with proper aspect ratio, allowing for migration to HD-only distribution strategies.