Sinclair Broadcast Group continues to lead the industry’s transition to the future of television by developing innovative solutions to meet its requirements for channel playback and live broadcasting.
These include a new SMPTE ST 2110 media operations center with an area of 25,000 square meters for Sinclair’s regional sports networks (RSN) with cloud-hosted disaster recovery channels and a large-scale ST 2110 production facility. Tennis channel with a cloud environment for live pop-up special events.
They were all built around Imagine communications infrastructure and game platforms.
Don Roberts, vice president of sports engineering and manufacturing systems at Sinclair Broadcast Group, emphasizes that both business and technical requirements are drivers of Sinclair’s transition to IP connectivity and software-defined architectures – and in particular cloud deployment. “This transition cannot be just lifting and replacing old systems; it’s an opportunity to take a fresh look at the way the operator works, “Roberts said. “We need to start with good consumer engagement to understand what will change at each step. The transition to IP and the cloud is transformative. We can’t just switch the switch – we have to redefine the way the business works. This is change management as technology. “
A strong advocate of the SMPTE ST 2110 family of standards, Sinclair has a long history working with Imagine Communications to develop IP reproduction and manufacturing systems. Following the acquisition of regional sports networks by Fox / Disney in 2019, Sinclair had to quickly develop a new gaming strategy and decided to build an IP-based facility from the start to serve as a reliable hub for the new RSN.
“Armed with our IP experience and our strong technical relationship with Imagine, we decided that our first step was to develop a local RSN solution,” Roberts said. “We have also developed options for placing some functionalities – such as backup and playback in case of disaster recovery – in the cloud. This allows us to use the facility in Atlanta as a step, constantly improving workflows and business cases that will help us move to a hybrid approach that balances opportunities and costs. “
At the same time, Sinclair is developing a platform for its tennis channel, a service that includes comprehensive coverage of the top 100 sports tournaments and more. The channel has a main control center in Santa Monica, California, which uses the flexible Versio platform, both local for primary origin with Imagine’s ADC automationand as instances of AWS cloud-hosted software for pop-up special events under the control of a cloud-optimized version automation system. IP connectivity simplifies the hardware architecture, for example, by using Imagine’s Magellan SDNO virtual software reintroduction features to create virtual dashboards, router routes, and workflows.
The Tennis Channel project presented Sinclair with a new set of technical, operational and business challenges. “Tennis is live and unpredictable, so we need our playing skills to be agile and responsive,” Roberts explained. “Software solutions like Versio give us this flexibility – the ability to make a decision and air it almost instantly. And because it can be hosted in the cloud, we just rotate it at the beginning of each tournament and close the software when it’s done. “
At the heart of the architecture in downtown Santa Monica is Imagine’s Selenio network processor, which Roberts describes as a “radiated Swiss Army knife – if you have a signal problem, throw an SNP at it.” Each 1RU SNP device hosts four independent, software-defined processing channels. In the Tennis Channel facility, SNPs act as IP gateways and support format conversion, allowing the facility to be mostly 1080p, but if necessary to accept 4K and HDR UHD, such as for the French outdoor tennis from Roland Garros in Paris. The device also uses the new personality of the SNP-MV multivisor, which allows you to quickly create tactical displays with multiple performances, wherever they are needed in the workflow.
The new infrastructure of the ST 2110 tennis channel debuted in December 2020. Sinclair then went live to and from the cloud during the Miami coverage in 2021 in March, noting for the first time that any of the TV operators supported such a high-ranking live sports event through a live cloud game. The innovative combination of cloud playback and master ground control provided a solution that was particularly powerful during COVID’s time, which challenged media companies to continue producing quality broadcasts while providing a safe working environment for operational staff. The unique capabilities and integration of Imagine’s playback products and core infrastructure have created a modern architecture and workflow that have helped.