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BT's Media & Broadcast Division

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Getting content from glass to glass – from capture to end audiences – may sound like an easy thing to deliver, but for those in the media and broadcast industry familiar with all the processes involved, the reality can be a little more challenging.

BT'S media & broadcast division touches every part of the supply chain, seamlessly linking the processes to ensure content is delivered in a way audiences see as effortless. The business has been involved in this for more than 60 years, dating back to the first international TV broadcasts, today helping 600 customers move, distribute and broadcast content around the globe.

Always at the cutting edge of the latest available technology, the company has delivered a series of industry ‘firsts’ over the years, including HD and 4K/UHD, and prides itself on delivering bespoke solutions to help customers address both current and future challenges. As experts in live TV, BT combines industry experience and heritage with unrivalled network capacity and capability in the last mile, including fibre, satellite mobile and wireless. The company’s home is BT Tower in London, where state-of-the art facilities handle up to 16,000 hours of content per day. The business also distributes international TV for many global brands and channels, including bringing Indian channel ‘Colors’ in HD to the UK following the recent deal with Viacom18. BT’s media and broadcast division also operates one of the biggest satellite teleports in Europe.

For the UEFA Champions League Final this year, BT helped deliver the match to a worldwide audience of more than 350 million – the largest outside broadcast event in the world in 2017.Ahead of the event in Cardiff, the National Stadium of Wales joined BT’s Next Generation fibre-based TV Outside Broadcast (TVOB) network. This specialist network enabled BT Sport to broadcast the match live using High Dynamic Range (HDR) technology in Ultra-High Definition (UHD) with Dolby Atmos sound to a private screening in London. The match was also available for the first time ever in Virtual Reality (VR) to fans through connectivity to the internet gateway at BT Tower for the BT Sport Virtual Reality App. The business also delivered satellite back-up for HD and UHD, four access circuits for total diversity and 15Gbit/s of traffic over the Next Generation TVOB network.

BT's media & broadcast team has also added BT Media Stream to the TVOB portfolio to include content from OB trucks. This service offers customers the ability to live stream any content to any online platform including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Periscope and is delivered by production company Jackshoot. For an incremental cost, brands and broadcasters can add this service to their TVOB where live footage is sent to BT Tower via fibre broadband, satellite trucks, LiveU or any IP feed.

The move to IP and cloud-based working has huge benefits for the industry, but needs suitable, affordable, robust connectivity. BT’s media networks have had IP at the core for more than 18 years, from when the business designed and built the first MPLS broadcast network, and now features uncompressed fully IP networks. Evolving its own service provider broadcast infrastructure has been key for assisting customers to transition and helping them avoid purchasing costs for legacy processing equipment. The recently-created BT IP Facilityline has connected customer content via the global media network using new IP standards endorsed by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE).
BT is using this expertise to ensure customers, including the BBC and Premier League Productions (PLP), can make the move to an IP infrastructure which is future-proofed for increased demand in the coming years. The business has successfully provided the UK’s first uncompressed video contribution network connecting all 20 Premier League football stadiums with PLP as the League’s international broadcasting outlet. For the BBC, BT has designed and built a flexible IP network able to provide extra capacity for big multi-channel events including the Olympic Games and general elections, while taking advantage of emerging formats including 4K/8K and 360-degree content.

The next step is software-defined networks (SDN), and BT has already included an element of software control in its existing broadcast networks. In June this year, BT announced a trial of SDN architecture in the BT Labs at Adastral Park, Ipswich. This trial was a further phase of long-running research into future software-defined broadcast networks, which have resulted in the new BBC network and BT’s Next Generation TVOB network.

The trial demonstrated how multiple HD uncompressed video flows can be transported across a SDN through to a production studio via high-bandwidth network pipes. This new type of network will enable live footage to be captured remotely, allowing broadcasters to cover events without sending multiple camera crews, potentially saving millions of pounds in the future as they look to move away from having studios on-site full of equipment. This technology will also allow broadcasters to change the format of footage at the touch of a button as it passes across the infrastructure.
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