Ascent Media is going to take an aggressive approach to selling its transmission services to the broadcast market after officially opening a new Media Centre in Stephen Street in London.

Seven months in construction, the Media Centre provides tape and data based ingest, transcode archive, live presentation and delivery services.

The ingest area supports the European Transmission Centre (ETC) - where 14 channels currently originate - and links to Viia, Ascent Media Network Services' Media Storage and re-purposing infrastructure.

Because of the vast capacity available to him and his team, the sales approach will be concerted.

“Our spare capacity means we're out there aggressively, we're not here to be gentle,” Andrew Johnston, vice president, sales and business development EMEA content distribution told Broadcast. “Our market is the premium market, the channels that want very high reliability.”

“The launch of the media centre is our opportunity to show people what we can do. Clients are generally looking for predictability and reliability. They will encode and ingest anywhere they like in the world and then ship full programmes via IP.”

New launch

The Media Centre opened officially for the first time last Thursday (8 February). It already services a number of clients and provides five video/audio leases from London to Singapore via a fibre network.

Johnston maintains that the capacity and flexibility of the operation makes the new Media Centre unique. He said: “The new bit is our vast capacity which means we can provision as we wish. We can handle IP and any mix of SD/HD traffic simultaneously and not have the two interact with each other.

“We are trying to build a generalised solution that is capable of being bent towards different types of workflows.”

The business plan for the centre revolves around attracting contracted clients, ad hoc business and extra one-off jobs from regular customers. Recent jobs include big jobs, like arranging worldwide distributions for a film premiere, and small ones such as live sports commentary insertion. And there is potential to do lots more.

“We are working on several major motion pictures where the dailies are being shipped to California via our private long-haul dark fibre network,” said Johnston. “It is provisioned as a fully redundant 2.4 Gbit line which is able, for instance, to carry the equivalent of two uncompressed HD feeds. In fact, there are two of them, each going a different way around the world. ”

Re-purposing content

The ability to re-purpose content for different platforms and media is an important part of the new set-up. The Media Centre uses Viia, Ascent Media's own suite of digital technologies to pump out different versions of the same content.

"Viia is a content re-purposing factory,” said Johnston. “We'll take a high-res format for TV and then have this factory that allows us to re-purpose for broadcast or IPTV, telephony or iTunes. The Media Centre ingest stations are multi-purpose and can supply broadcast playout, Viia, or both.

“It can be done as one-stop shop. We could take one long form piece, such as an episode of something, and in one integrated fashion we could prep it, do a promo, do sections for mobile telephony and deliver to the relevant creative work stations as appropriate.”

Route to success

The Media Centre is built around a Harris router, currently utilising 256 squared out of a 512 squared chassis.

The monitoring is driven off the router using a combined system called Centrino. This enables any video signal to be monitored and alarmed. Johnston said that when making decisions about which kit to buy there are two considerations.

“As far as the infrastructure is concerned it is relatively complex, so you spend a lot of time deciding about the bits that are difficult to disentangle, such as the router or the digital asset management system,” he said.

“The other equipment, such as encoding kit and monitors, is closer to a home electronics purchase decision. You almost buy something on the basis that you might change it again in a few yeas. It will have a built-in lifespan. We take a more relaxed attitude to these choices.”

Key facts and details

  • The Media Centre project began in the summer of last year and has taken just over seven months to complete. It became fully operational in the middle of January 2008.

  • It is a 24-hours a day, 365 days a year operation. Staff levels vary depending on the shift pattern.

  • The Media Centre features live presentation suites, it is the London hub for signal switching, global connectivity and satellite downlink and it is capable of repurposing for VoD, Mobile and IPTV.

  • Ascent Media's Viia service, the company's new suite of digital technologies and resources, provides asset management and delivery

  • The facility is managed and operated by Ascent Media's Content Management team.

  • The Media Centre has full satellite downlinking integration and connectivity to other Ascent Media sites in New York, Los Angeles and Singapore.