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NAB 2015: ABC Adopts IP-Based Virtual Master Control

LAS VEGAS–ABC’s been going IP while the rest of the industry bats it around like a cat toy.

“When Steve Jobs showed us our show ‘Lost’ on an iPod in 2005, we knew the world was changing,” said Vince Roberts, executive vice president of global operations and chief technology officer of the Disney/ABC Television Group.

“We launched the full episode player on ABC.com in 2006. Disney decided then to deliver TV on the Internet, both live and on demand, but the marketplace wasn’t ready,” he said, and the device ecosystem wasn’t ready. Disney has also since successfully launched Watch, which offers 24 hour live streaming of local and national TV. Roberts said ABC is the only U.S. broadcast network doing this.

“The current migration is from the big iron to the cloud,” he said. “It was over three years in the making at Disney. We had to scrutinized every aspect of the business…. We knew cloud technology would make the environment agile and flexible.”

Roberts made the announcement at the Imagine Communications presser at the Hard Rock Hotel Sunday night, an event that included a panel discussion hosted by “Inside Edition” host Deborah Norville, a performance by Foreigner and a sit-down dinner for a couple of thousand of Imagine’s closest pals.

Disney/ABC used a unified IP cloud architecture that included Imagine’s VersioCloud, an IP-enabled, integrated playout-in-the-cloud platform powered by its Zenium software-defined workflow technology. Zenium enables plug-in content augmentation functions for affiliate branding platforms, including triggers, live caption data, loudness control and externally generated crawls and tickers. A hierarchical programming model with an intuitive user interface enables associations to be made between programming blocks that move, track and trigger together.

“Imagine Communications’ IP solutions enable us to automate and deliver workflow processes and technologies to a more agile and scalable environment,” Roberts said.

Imagine CEO Charlie Vogt talked about meeting with Roberts for the first time a couple of years ago when he came on as CEO of the former Harris Broadcast. Vogt was all about software-defined architectures from the get-go, having come out of the VoIP world. He described his vision to Roberts, who responded with a figurative face palm and asked where Vogt had been. They’d been looking at the idea for some time at that point. Vogt went back, grumbled at his salespeople, and the folks at Imagine Communications started coding like mad.

Both Roberts and Vogt will be talking the ins and outs of replacing big iron media architectures with IP-enabled gear on Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. in room S222 of the Las Vegas Convention Center. The panel discussion, “Television’s Transition to an All-IP Future—Why it’s a Big Deal,” will also feature Fox’s Clyde Smith, TVU’s Paul Shen and industry consultant and cloud evangelidt Al Kovalick.

One gem dropped during Deborah Norville’s chit-chat involved an IP transition at DirecTV. Gunter Kamper, vice president of broadcast operations and engineering for DirecTV said the satellite TV provider is adopting a complete IP workflow in the United States over the next four of five years.

Imagine Communications will be demonstrating its IP-based media architecture in North Hall in booth #N2702.