The sports broadcast scene in Europe is hotting up, and new entrants acquire rights and launch new channel in the competition for viewers with this lucrative genre. In France, beIN SPORT launched last year, and BT Sport has launched in the UK this year.
beIN SPORT is backed by Al Jazeera, and airs three HD channels — beIN SPORT 1, beIN SPORT 2 and beIN SPORT MAX — via fiber, cable and satellite. SPORT 1 and 2 air live sports, and MAX is a sports magazine channel.
The launch of the channels followed Al Jazeera acquiring the French rights to UEFA EURO 2012 and EURO 2016, along with rights to France’s top-tier Ligue 1, the UEFA Champions League, premier leagues in Germany, Italy and Spain, and other high-profile and popular European sports teams and events — including last year’s London Olympics. The broadcaster already has signed up 1 million subscribers in the first year of operation.
To set up the broadcast operation, Al Jazeera turned to Unitecnic, a broadcast engineering and systems integrator based in Barcelona, with offices in Madrid, Lisbon, Miami, Buenos Aires and Dubai. Unitecnic is a business unit of MediaPro, part of WPP’s Imagina Group.
Having secured two floors of a building in the media district of southwest Paris, the company embarked upon an ambitious project to install production and playout for the three channels in three months.
The installation included two studios, each with an associated control room, and a news studio with control room. The sports newsroom, with space for 65 journalists, is integrated into the news studio set. Two master control rooms provide playout of SPORT 1 and 2.
Production facilities include 10 craft edit bays, one audio editing room and 12 voiceover booths. Highlights packaging and logging have separate rooms.
The system is built to support 3Gb/s throughout, so to avoid losses in cable runs there are no patch bays in the system. All routing is though a dual-redundant Miranda NVision 8576 router equipped with 504 coax and 72 fiber inputs, 612 coax and 72 fiber outputs. A second router provides facilities for the playout area. Data routing uses two Cisco Catalysts with Cat 7 wiring and support up to 10Gb/s.
To support fast-turnaround sports production, Unitechnic turned to EVS to provide ingest, logging, browsing, highlights packaging, archiving and play to air. The system uses the AVC-Intra 100 codec for broadcast-resolution files.
Content is recorded on five EVS XS servers and three XT3 servers, with the servers configured to record up to 32 feeds simultaneously. Four IPDirector workstations for content and production management are each equipped with the Ingest Scheduler application for controlling the recording process. WHAT’S On, the traffic system from MediaGeniX, assigns a unique ID to all ingested media that is used throughout the entire production workflow, from EVS’ Ingest Scheduler to the Pebble Beach Marina automation system.
A 192TB XStore SAN provides the primary storage with 10 IPDirectors for process management. During live productions, the eight-channel XT3 servers record up to 12 live clean feeds and are controlled by LSM remote control panels, which are used for clipping and highlights creation as well as delays. Concurrently, eight IPDirector workstations are dedicated to logging live action. The stations are also used to swiftly browse all of the incoming material.
Content is archived to an IBM TS3500 tape library, with a capacity of 20,000 hrs, more than 900TB. Front Porch Digital DIVArchive integrated to the EVS digital archive management manages the hierarchical storage management.
Loggers use EVS IPDirector to assign descriptive metadata to all significant events and actions. Using a predefined keyword grid or dictionary, loggers are able to assign the keywords to incoming feeds. For instance, over 200 keywords are assigned during a football match. This metadata is stored in a central database where operators, editors or journalists looking to create highlight packages at a later stage can search for them to retrieve files quickly and easily, whether they sit in the central or archive storage facility.
The newsroom is based around an Avid iNews NRCS with 64 clients, for the editing of stories and run down management. iNews is integrated with the EVS content management and Vizrt graphics.
Stories can be clipped and rough cut with EVS Xedio Clean Edit workstations. High-resolution craft editing uses a mix of Avid Newscutters and Media Composer along with Apple Final Cut Pro. Sound editing uses Protools. The post-production department uses Avid ISIS for shared storage with Interplay production asset management.
Transmission of beIN SPORT 1 and beIN SPORT 2 is carried out with two redundant XS servers controlled by a Marina automation system from Pebble Beach Systems. Two additional XS servers are used for the transmission of beIN SPORT MAX. All XS servers are connected to EVS’ high-speed network, XNet2, and can be controlled by IPDirector. Consequently, operators can control and synchronize all playout channels from a single interface.
Two studio control rooms are used for the magazine shows and sports news programming. Each studio is equipped with two XT3 servers and IPDirector software. Through MOS protocol support and an Active X plug-in, the IPDirector suite integrates seamlessly with Avid’s iNews. As a result, content and associated metadata stored on the XStoreSAN can be accessed and added to the rundown list. In addition, any running order managed from the iNews client interface is automatically kept up to date on the IPDirector.
The strict three-month timeline was met, and beIN SPORT 1 launched as scheduled, with beIN SPORT 2 and beIN SPORT MAX debuting shortly after. The workflow provided the tools and the capabilities to deliver the kind of channels Al Jazeera wanted to make an immediate and dramatic impact on the European sports programming landscape.
As Israel Esteban, CTO at beIN SPORT, explains, “We’re providing the premier sports channels in France and needed an extremely high-quality file-based workflow solution.” Commenting on the EVS workflow, “With EVS, we got just that: a fully integrated workflow with robust, intuitive and sophisticated tools, as well as a high degree of integration with third-party systems. In short, critical capabilities to meet our exacting goals.”