Embracing an All-IP Outlook

By 2020, said the engineering vice president of one of the nation’s largest broadcast networks, we
should be able to walk into the backroom of a broadcast station and not see a single piece of
broadcast equipment.

Sure, there will be a server and some storage solutions, just like in any data center. “But I don’t
[foresee] any broadcast equipment,” said Thomas Edwards, vice president of engineering and
development for Fox. He said the future of production and distribution of video services — for
broadcast, cable and other major program providers — is an IP-driven model.

“[In my mind] I don’t see any boutique gear or bespoke hardware,” he said. “I want everything
to be virtualized and running on common off-the-shelf Ethernet switchers and servers,”
resulting in a flexible and agile plant that can better accommodate today’s massive drive for
video consumption and the increasing bandwidth required to deliver programs in 4K.

A broadcast facility without the broadcast gear? That was the gist from the speakers at the
session “Cisco Presents: From Capture to Consumer: How New Content Dynamics Are Affecting
Broadcast Infrastructures.” The expert panelists are staring into the face of SDI-run backrooms
and declaring that IP will rush in and sweep much of the old technology away. And whether
you’re on board now or think it’ll take you five years to get there, the shift is unavoidable.

“That’s our vision,” Edwards said. “The question is, how do we get from here to there?”

Fox is on board, having just built an all-IP production truck that will be used for its upcoming
golf coverage. The trend is the same outside the United States as well. The Brazilian television
network TV Globo has been running its drama productions off of IP workflows since 2010,
according to Raymundo Barros, CTO of TV Globo, and is in the midst of developing a new
IP-based OB truck for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

The benefits of IP manifest themselves in a number of places, said Jaime Miles, group vice
president of the National Content Group at Time Warner Cable. The group’s development
teams can now invest in individuals focused on building end-user applications, as opposed to
requiring those engineers to understand the entire infrastructure of the plant in order to get a
piece of equipment installed. “Now our workflow [has become] fairly IP-specific, [and this]
allows us to go even farther,” Miles said. “How do we become an application development
company? How do we build these next-generation platforms? It also allows us to scale really
quickly.”

The panel discussion also touched on the impact of consumer-created content, security concerns
that crop up when using a cloud infrastructure, the ongoing battle over broadcast spectrum
and the importance of analytics when it comes to understanding your audience. But what’s
holding back the wave of mass consumption toward IP? Primarily economics, the panelists
agreed.

“Live news and sports are still [running on an] SDI-based infrastructure,” Barros said. “It will
take a while until we can change the whole infrastructure.”

But one of the technology’s strongest pulls is its future-proofing capabilities. “Why do we care
about IP in the broadcast plant?” Edwards asked. “One reason is that we don’t know what the
heck we’re going to be [using in] five years — will we be doing 1080 60p, HDR, wide gamut?
We could be doing all of these things. The good news is it all flows over IP. We future-proof
ourselves a little bit, which enables us to do all these different things.”

There is no longer really a debate over whether the industry should convert to IP; it’s just
about how to get there, Miles said. “It’s really an economic question. It’s about managing this
evolution and doing it in a way that makes economic sense and meets the demand,” he said.

“But there’s no question that over the next few years, 100 percent of our video delivery will
be end-to-end IP,” he said.

The session was moderated by Dave Ward of Cisco Systems.