ATLANTA—Two years after its $9.6 billion purchase of 21 Fox RSNs and Fox College Sports from Disney by Sinclair, the network has unveiled its new 25,000-square-foot Media Operations Center in Atlanta, as it also rebrands its new sports arm as “Bally Sports.”
Sinclair built the facility with Encompass Digital Media after Disney/ESPN decided to keep the former Fox RSN sports hub at The Woodlands in Houston. The time crunch to design, build and equip the new facility didn’t make getting to completion any easier.
“What Fox had built over a 15-year period, we had to recreate in two years, from scratch,” said Del Parks, executive vice president and chief technical officer for Sinclair.
“We settled on Encompass for the facility because of its experience as a program service provider [and] we hired Deloitte and Think Strategic Consulting to help program and manage the project,” said Don Roberts, Sinclair’s vice president, sports engineering and production systems. “Now, we’re in the process of commissioning the SMPTE 2110 facility with its key vendors, Imagine, Encompass and Diversified.”
Parks said Sinclair made its new facility as future-proof as possible; as the sports industry advances to higher resolution UHD and HDR, the need for an all-IP facility is critical.
With an existing major uplink facility and backup disaster recovery uplink in Connecticut, the site will feature the latest infrastructure, including two 2.5 MW generators, two 750 KW uninterruptable power supplies and power feeds from two separate grids to provide the redundancy such a facility requires. The technical core consists of 84 racks with the latest IP equipment installed by Diversified.
Since the Bally Sports RSNs cover teams from not only MLB, but also the NBA and the NHL, game times can overlap and the facility needs to cover multiple events. So it “has a large capacity for control rooms and has UHD 4K capabilities. That gives us plenty of room to expand,” Parks said. “Additionally, we have AT&T fiber connecting all of the RSNs and the sports venues to Encompass.”
At the core playout is Imagine Communications’ Versio Modular Playout and ADC Automation.
Sinclair’s remote trucks are mostly provided by the Mobile TV Group, of Denver. “They operate from the venues and send back the signal via fiber to Atlanta, where the commercials and the pregame and postgame shows are inserted,” said Parks, “then uplinked to the satellite for distribution to our multichannel video programming distributor customers.
“It’s also important to note,” Parks added, “that due to the FCC-mandated satellite repack of the C-band spectrum, Sinclair also has to deploy more than 3,500 new satellite receivers (integrated receiver/decoders) from Synamedia, then transition its satellite operations from an MPEG2-based distribution from The Woodlands to Encompass and the new, more efficient encoding process High-Efficiency Video Codec.”
In addition to the Bally Sports RSNs, the new Media Operations Center will host Marquee Sports Network (the Chicago Cubs’ RSN) and the Yankees YES Network. As Parks noted, building out the operation at Encompass to accommodate so many content providers in such a short timeframe has been a huge challenge.
“We’ve had at least 50 people working directly on this project,” said Parks, noting that the equipment in the 40 control rooms, supervisor pods and offices is installed and ready. “I’ve worked for Sinclair for 50 years and this is the largest project that we’ve ever done.”
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Mark R. Smith has covered the media industry for a variety of industry publications, with his articles for TV Technology often focusing on sports. He’s written numerous stories about all of the major U.S. sports leagues.
Based in the Baltimore-Washington area, the byline of Smith, who has also served as the long-time editor-in-chief for The Business Monthly, Columbia, Md., initially appeared in TV Technology and in another Futurenet publication, Mix, in the late ’90s. His work has also appeared in numerous other publications.