Technicolor facilitates new era in ITV broadcasting operations

Technicolor has completed the transfer of all of the playout and delivery services for UK broadcaster ITV. The transition to Technicolor’s transmission center in Chiswick Park, London, was completed at the beginning of March 2009 after two years of planning and development.

The company has retained separate advertising regions stemming from its history as a group of regional broadcasters that have over time consolidated into the ITV of today. The primary channel, ITV 1, has 23 subregions. ITV runs four main networks, ITV 1, 2, 3 and 4. This regional operation, for local news and for advertising, increases the complexity of the playout operation, which with the delivery to broadband, mobile and catch-up services gives a total of 50 services.

ITV formerly ran two playout centers, one in central London to cover the southern region and Leeds to cover the northern region. When ITV decided to outsource playout services to Technicolor, transmission continued from the existing facilities in central London, while Technicolor built the new transmission center at its site in Chiswick Park in West London.

The dedicated center at Chiswick Park was purpose-built by Technicolor to meet the evolving needs of multiplatform content distribution. A parallel build in Leeds equipped the northern center. This handles about 30 percent of the output, including local programming, plus acts as a backup for the West London center. Each day in transmitting ITV’s channels, Technicolor handles more than 24,000 scheduled events, and about 150 items are quality controlled and handled in the entirely file-based environment. Chiswick Park has proved a popular location for multichannel playout services, with SBS and Discovery operating transmission centers in adjoining buildings.

As part of the outsourcing agreement, ITV staff was transferred to Technicolor, and the joint team worked closely together to develop new operational workflows for multiplatform delivery. This included a completely fresh approach to playout, with all of the linear channels and some online and on-demand outputs executed from a single management suite. This gives ITV a very tight integration between its multiple channels and additional online services such as catch-up television. The migration was a complex logistical exercise involving people, processes and technology, while maintaining uninterrupted outputs.

The playout system is based on the Grass Valley K2 server platform, controlled by Morpheus automation from Snell. The Technicolor center is based on its in-house business process management system, overseeing a completely new and highly advanced transmission and delivery operation. All types of content are processed in preparation for broadcast including tape, digital files, off-air and live feeds, all from multiple sources.