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Foxtel Deploys TAG IP Monitoring Solution

TAG Video Systems
(Image credit: TAG Video Systems)

SYDNEY—Foxtel and Magna Systems and Engineering have deployed an IP monitoring solution from TAG Video Systems that the companies are calling the largest solution of its kind in the southern hemisphere and one of the top ten globally. 

In 2020 Foxtel started a project to exit an aging television center facility at Macquarie Park. The plan involved migrating their entire technology platform across two sites in Sydney to an all-IP platform encompassing video routing, satellite, OTT and more. 

After more than 12 months of market research, testing and trialing various vendor IP monitoring solutions, Foxtel chose a solution from TAG Video Systems for all their IP monitoring requirements. 

This TAG monitoring solution, supplied by Magna Systems & Engineering, is the largest solution of its kind in the southern hemisphere and in the top ten solutions of its kind globally, the companies said. 

Foxtel head of broadcast engineering and projects, Matthew Carter, explained that “We wanted to be able to not only view pictures on monitors but provide a real time probe of those signals across the full workflow to provide a full end-to-end view of the video workflow across all formats and encoding types. The TAG solution does all of this and more.”

Starting with an RFI in 2020, progressing to an extensive RFP in 2021 and followed by a POC, the TAG solution ticked all the boxes for Foxtel’s new multiviewing and monitoring for all of their IP sources across multiple sites, the companies said. 

The TAG solution is now monitoring over 2,000 sources across multiple sites with all types of IP signals including uncompressed HD and UHD, compressed HD and UHD, OTT - HLS, CMAF and DASH including DRM, NDI and any combination of these signals can be monitored on just one server. TAG is also a software solution running entirely on COTS hardware.

When the RFP was concluded Foxtel also opted for the latest DELL R650 server with dual ConnectX6 200GE cards. Each server is capable of monitoring up to 128 uncompressed SMPTE ST2110 HD inputs with -7 seamless switching protection.

“We specifically purchased the TAG IP monitoring solution for its ability to decode and monitor across multi-formatsa,” Carter said. “It is still the only tool out there that can do this within the same appliance at scale. We were also very impressed with Magna who supported us from start to finish. They understood our requirements and worked closely with my team to provide the solution that fitted our needs. Magna have been on hand all along the way to help with any issues and to work with TAG on any request we have had.”

The new TAG IP solution is used across the entire Foxtel platform, from the ingest of the signal from playout or third parties, pre-compression and post compression. It is also used across multiple departments including MCR, Presentation and Foxtel’s Service Assurance teams across two sites under one control environment.  

“With the introduction of the MCS controller management, control of the TAG platform has become much simpler,” Carter continued. “At the beginning of the journey this tool wasn’t even a reality to the customer but working closely alongside TAG and Magna we have helped shape the product and continue to do so.”

A great example is how Foxtel uses the TAG solution comes in the form of the monitoring of their event-based OTT streams. Using the fully open API Foxtel have integrated this into their resource scheduling platform to provide operators with verification of customer delivery. Foxtel’s automation system, in turn, then supplies TAG with the necessary CDN details associated with an event to start decoding and probing. This now means that the once cumbersome workflows of checking a physical device for the event start are no longer required as there is now a continued monitoring of the stream from start to finish, the companies said. 

"When Foxtel and Magna approached TAG with this ambitious and forward-looking project, they presented a very clear challenge,” vice president of sales at TAG Video Systems, Adi Itzhaki, said. “Beyond transitioning to all IP, Foxtel needed to monitor multiple workflows and formats across multiple sites at high scale. TAG's MCM is the perfect fit for these requirements with deep realtime monitoring across the entire chain along with the MCS control and analysis layer. With TAG and Magna, Foxtel managed to get a single point view of their workflow, while staying agile and aligning delivery to their evolving business requirements.”

“TAG are the market leaders in the IP monitoring space," Carter added. "There is very little out there that can do what the TAG does on the same hardware, such as decoding multiformat streams all on one appliance. Using the TAG IP solution gives Foxtel an edge as it is a software-based solution so we can move away from dedicated hardware that become a technical debt over time. As improvements are made in OTS hardware Foxtel, TAG and Magna will move with them. The other edge we have is down to our long working relationship with Magna and in turn, Magna’s excellent relationship with TAG. It is these key relationships that enable us to work so closely with them and makes this a true partnership.”

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.