Imagine Communications unveils new offerings


ImagineImagine Communications, previously Harris Broadcast (which also split off into Gates Air), detailed new offerings and products at its recent MediaDay in NYC. Imagine says its overall vision is to “lead the media and entertainment markets to a future defined by IP, software, the cloud, and multiscreen viewing.” Imagine introduced the frameworks that are supporting that vision: MediaCentral, Software Defined Networking and Workflows, and TV Everywhere.

They aim to position Imagine Communications to lead broadcasters, TV networks and distributors through a transformative era for the industry.

MediaCentral is a software- and IP-based framework for enabling customers to migrate media and playout functionality to the cloud. This service-oriented framework for the industry ensures that today’s investments will not be stranded with the introduction of new delivery models, formats or innovations.

Across the industry, media and playout solutions such as ad sales, traffic, scheduling and automation, are provided in distinct, separate and often premises-based platforms. MediaCentral creates an underlying architecture of modular, IP-based services, fundamentally improving the way media companies manage their workflows and monetize their media assets.

“Our industry requires a framework that unshackles customers from today’s premises-based, proprietary models and supports new playout platforms, delivery options and monetization models for TV Everywhere,” said Charlie Vogt, CEO of Imagine Communications. “The MediaCentral framework gives customers elastic scalability that allows them to manage more stations, more networks and more distribution channels efficiently, while providing a much-improved Revenue and OpEx model. This framework is leapfrog technology that enables our customers to more effectively monetize both linear and nonlinear business, as well as integrating advanced, addressable advertising capabilities.”

The MediaCentral framework combines media and playout software modules in a standards-based environment that utilizes the cloud and virtualized computing capabilities, allowing media companies to efficiently manage their businesses across formats, delivery platforms and multiple locations. This service-oriented framework will also optimize the infrastructure that media companies already have, providing a seamless migration path to cloud-based, next-generation media and playout. Customers with today’s Imagine’s media and playout portfolio are benefitted by a stair-step migration to this virtualized framework.

Leveraging this modular approach of service oriented architectures, new modules such as addressable, impression-based advertising can be easily added into existing services, enabling creation of campaigns specific to demographics with addressable advertising capabilities. Agencies and media planners will be able to look at the inventory available across linear TV, mobile devices, video on demand and OTT, and easily create cross-platform campaigns.

This impression-based, addressable advertising approach is illustrated by Imagine Communications’ support of Sky’s new tailored advertising service Sky AdSmart. Imagine Communications is a longstanding partner of Sky, with the company’s Landmark sales software supporting more than 200 Sky-owned and partner channels as well as more than 25 million commercial spots each year.

“We operate in a competitive market and can only prosper by providing advertisers with efficient and sophisticated campaigns,” said Jeff Eales, director of systems and development at Sky’s advertising sales division Sky Media. “Consolidating our TV, VOD, web and targeted advertising onto one platform has put our commercial operations ahead of the pack, simplifying campaign management and providing the analytics and actionable information necessary to maintain our competitive edge.”

MultiService SDN is a software-defined networking (SDN) framework that creates a fully virtualized network fabric for deploying advanced services. This unique framework enables the video bit flow to be software-mapped, simplifying the network architecture of media companies operating in hybrid environments with both baseband and IP workflows.

“We have taken a cue from the world of IT networking where SDN has exploded in popularity to enable faster, cheaper and better innovation,” said Vogt. “Today’s network technology is cumbersome and complex – requiring substantial investments to support emerging workflows and delivery types, while lacking the advantages of standard IT environments. Our unique, hybrid approach to SDN changes the bit flow while enhancing the workflow – dramatically improving the way video is managed through broadcast facilities by allowing the entire bit flow to be software-defined.”

Based on open standards that enable a multi-vendor ecosystem, MultiService SDN allows media companies to seamlessly leverage the high-quality video processing done in baseband while providing an on-ramp and off-ramp to baseband over IP via a software control layer. This new architecture creates scalable, geo-diverse and elastic networks that are customer-configurable to each unique workflow, and paves the way for migration of functionality into virtualized environments. Leveraging commercial off-the-shelf processing and switching platforms from best-in-class partners, the MultiService SDN framework offers a significantly differentiated approach that is more scalable and reliable, supporting a fully redundant two-switch hitless architecture. It also allows operations staff and systems to interface to the hybrid-IP or all-IP plant using traditional protocols and operational practices – ensuring continuity of operations and easing staff re-training burdens.

In tandem with streamlining infrastructure through MultiService SDN, Imagine Communications’ Software Defined Workflows (SDW) allow media companies to apply a similar software-mapped approach to video workflows. Traditionally, changing the workflow meant changing the systems, which are static and in many cases are hard-coded in the processing systems. SDW allows media companies to change the workflow sequence and timing with ease and to add new ingest sources simply by mapping them into the process. By bringing the core flexibility benefits of SDN and SDW to the baseband systems of today, Imagine Communications provides a logical extension of existing investments and a pathway to a hybrid/IP future. This creates a more flexible service development environment that results in improved service velocity by letting the user try new things and readily introduce new technology and services, advancing their networks farther and faster.

Imagine also introduced its TV Everywhere vision and portfolio. Leading the portfolio are SelenioNext adaptive bit rate transcoding technology and the SelenioEdge content delivery network software, which combine to create an end-to-end, TV Everywhere solution to meet growing demand for optimized live video stream distribution across a variety of platforms.

MultiService SDN supports Imagine’s Platinum routing and Selenio processing and compression solutions, providing a path to cloud-based virtualized workflow systems. New modules for these products will be showcased at the 2014 NAB Show, demonstrating the company’s hybrid approach to managing bit flow and on-ramp / off-ramp functionality for baseband over IP.

“TV Everywhere is an essential requirement with all of our customers as consumers demand access to more content from more locations on more devices,” added Vogt. “Our highly dense, scalable and operationally efficient TV Everywhere portfolio enables customers to deliver optimized experiences across multiscreen environments. Empowered by Software Defined Networking and Workflows (SDN/SDW) and MediaCentral, we are in a unique position to provide end-to-end media and playout solutions that seamlessly integrate with TV Everywhere distribution models, from content origination and monetization to the mobile screen.”

SelenioEdge provides limitless streaming scalability to end-user devices such as smart phones, tablets and set-top-boxes using standard formats, including Apple’s HTTP Live Streaming and DASH. SelenioEdge is based on state-of-the-art, high-availability web technologies optimized for cache-efficient streaming of live channels at throughput of up to 20 gigabits per second and capable of servicing tens of thousands of simultaneous users. When combined with SelenioNext, a high-density ABR transcoder with integrated packager and origin server, the solution provides customers a complete TV Everywhere solution with the lowest Total Cost of Ownership.

“Our customers are looking for ways to extend their reach, particularly in addressing the delivery and monetization of multiscreen content,” said Ron Gutman, VP/Technology at Imagine. “Our TV Everywhere approach leverages our customers’ existing investments, providing a means to replicate their current broadcast offering as a multiscreen service, with unparalleled cost structure and time-to-service. We achieve this through portfolio breakthroughs in compression and web technologies and by embracing our new paradigm of service-oriented, software-optimized architecture that utilizes commercial off-the-shelf servers and virtualization of network functions.”