How Sky News Arabia set up uninterrupted media transport over internet with automated booking and monitoring
Achieving high quality, uninterrupted media transport over internet with automated booking and monitoring, optimal bandwidth efficiency and streamlined workflows
Sky News Arabia is a 24-hour, Arabic-language rolling news channel broadcasting in HD quality from Abu Dhabi to the Arab world. A joint venture between Abu Dhabi Media Investment Corporation (ADMIC) and Sky News Arabia, the channel offers fresh, fast and independent news across multiple media platforms to 50 million households in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
Already one of the largest and most advanced news centers in the Middle East, Sky News Arabia was intent on building out a new global content contribution platform. This would connect 12 global news bureaus including Washington, Cairo, Istanbul, Osterley and Millbank (Westminster) in the UK, and also Ramallah, Gaza, Dubai and their DR center with its main hub on the TwoFour54 site in Abu Dhabi, UAE.
To provide greater flexibility at reduced cost, the natural choice of technology was to establish two way contribution links over a terrestrial network, using IP/MPLS as an underlying technology. At the same time, the plan was to use the public internet as a back-up network.
However, shifting to a new technology is not without its challenges. Even with the strictest QoS classes, an IP/MPLS grade network is prone to jitter, delay and packet loss – which can be risks higher than the most demanding broadcasters are ready to accept.
Implementing high quality services on top of an IP/MPLS network is complex and requires a large degree of configuration to ensure that the different types of traffic do not conflict with each other. Another big challenge was to offer greater flexibility while optimizing bandwidth and reduce the operational cost for providing video services.
The main goal for Sky News Arabia was to establish uninterrupted communication between all its bureaus, to enhance the quality of contributions and to speed breaking news to air.
“Previously we experienced a lot of issues with our IP/MPLS feed. Following the introduction of Nimbra VA we saw an immediate improvement in performance. It improved the availability and quality of our global bureau production. The major achievement has been uninterrupted feeds from our bureau.”
Since launch in 2011, Sky News Arabia has used Net Insight’s ScheduALL for resource scheduling and the interoperability platform ScheduALL Chorus to enable independent control systems to effectively communicate and work together.
In 2016, Sky News Arabia also selected Net Insight’s cost-effective media contribution over internet solution, the Nimbra VA series, to connect 12 news bureaus globally.
It also implemented Nimbra Vision, for easy at-a-glance overview of the network, service health and performance.
Throughout both implementation projects Net Insight’s professional services team has been a vital part of implementing the solutions to create world class media operations.
Having established a successful and ongoing partnership with Net Insight, Sky News Arabia had no hesitation in turning to the company to bridge the gap between the best-effort nature of the Internet and the high reliability and quality requirements it required.
“When looking for a new solution our main requirement was ultimately that the link should be operated on the public internet – but at the same time we were under no illusions about the shortcomings of the public internet at this time,” explains Suresh Kumar Nair, Director of Technology, Sky News Arabia.
“That’s why we decided to deploy an IP/MPLS link as the initial primary link. While providing a clear gain in opex over satellite, IP/MPLS is not perfect either and is prone to buffering and latency. So we approached Net Insight with a view to specifying a system that would meet our requirements – principally one that would be able to switch seamlessly between IP/MPLS to the standard internet as necessary and guarantee quality of service.”
Net Insight worked with Sky News Arabia to specify and install 27 units of the Nimbra VA 220 on each of the remote news bureaus, and at the head office in Abu Dhabi. These units combine the advantages of a powerful MPEG-4 encoder and decoder, together with an integrated video transport solution. Built on the same rugged software baseline as that of the proven Nimbra MSR family, the Net Insight VA series brings a unique set of advantages, such as rock solid operations, and tools to quickly understand when and where in the network any issue occur.
This powerful union provides both the operational simplicity of one point of management, as well as a reduction of network complexity – both minimizing potential sources of errors and maximizing service availability.
At the same time Nimbra VA offers Sky News Arabia the possibility to use Internet grade transport and still maintain the same strict broadcast quality standards they have become accustomed to.
For this complex Nimbra VA deployment, Sky News Arabia engaged Net Insight’s Professional Services engineers, experts and project management, mostly from Stockholm but partly also on site in Abu Dhabi. They helped Sky News Arabia to configure the boxes for bandwidth optimization.
“Since this technology is not ’off the shelf’ it required a lot of interaction between our technical team and the Net Insight Professional Services team to architect the solution,” says Kumar. ”We had huge cooperation from Net Insight to achieve our goal.”
Net Insight and Sky News Arabia also integrated the service-centric network management system, Nimbra Vision, for easy at-a-glance overview of the network, service health and performance.
RESOURCE SCHEDULING AND INTEROPERABILITY
Net Insight’s ScheduALL software has been a key integration component since the broadcaster’s inception. Since 2012, Sky News Arabia has consistently added further ScheduALL modules to cement its core function as an expansive fully integrated cross vendor booking solution.
The interoperability platform Chorus allows Sky News Arabia’s independent control systems to effectively communicate and work together – from initial feed request to ingest control. The advanced automation that is supported by Chorus includes a complete bi-directional path that sets up the communication between disparate systems like Miranda, Broadcast Bionics and Paradigm NMS across the facility.
“We are able to automate a lot of processes in the NOC because of the system,” says Kumar. “The solution allows us to be flexible and to get the most out of the hardware and software, so that we can be more effective with our resources.”
The implementation of ScheduALL has streamlined the increasingly complex environment of a modern file based workflow used at Sky News Arabia’s News Operations Center. ScheduALL prevents duplication of data, in turn reducing human errors, automating workflow and giving a small team of operators the ability to process large numbers of bookings through a wide range of complex machines. This enables Sky New Arabia to react to breaking news stories faster than ever before.
Equipped with ScheduALL software, journalists, editors and producers who are located anywhere in the Sky News Arabia facility are able to find out when feeds are scheduled, and to check real-time status. In addition to improving awareness of feeds for production, the improvements in the workflow and reporting is easing the burden on control room staff and administrators.
The ScheduALL core system has the ability to interface with back-office human resource and ERP systems, creating a 360-degree cost control and reporting functionality that drives unparalleled business analysis and increased efficiencies.
Sky News Arabia is in the process of interfacing the ScheduALL core system with back-office human resource and Enterprise Resource Planning systems, creating a 360-degree cost control and reporting functionality that drives unparalleled business analysis and increased efficiencies.
Net Insight’s Nimbra VA has offered Sky News Arabia a solution that lets them build, launch and manage broadcast quality, cost-efficient media transport over the internet. The Nimbra VA uses a combination of Sky News Arabia’s IP/MPLS infrastructure as well as internet to provide a reliable, flexible and bandwidth efficient protection scheme for the video services brought to the news center from the remote offices.
“The plan, in time and when the technology is proven, is to make the public internet our main contribution link,” says Kumar. “We are not at that stage yet, but this is the direction of travel and with Net Insight’s support we will get there.”