Imagine Communications has been selected by NPC Media Pty Ltd, a venture formed between Australia’s largest commercial broadcasters, Seven and Nine, to provide an extensive infrastructure upgrade of the National Playout Centre (NPC) in Sydney, Australia.
The National Playout Centre was first established by Nine Network 10 years ago, and today provides playout facilities for more than 106 free-to-air broadcast channels. Already one of the largest and most innovative broadcast operations in the APAC region, the center relies on Imagine Communications’ market-leading Versio™ playout and master control, D-Series™ playout automation and Nexio®️ media servers and content management services to provide end-to-end media management for program integration, live sport and multimedia distribution. “Central to the design of the expanded technology platform is the ability to adapt more seamlessly to changing market demands,” said Chris Howe, General Manager, Commercial and Technology at NPC Media. “Imagine Communications’ Versio product strategy allows us to confidently manage our current baseband/SDI infrastructure, and more swiftly and economically transition to a full range of software-defined, commercial off-the-shelf IP-based media services. This will benefit our NPC Media clients and the wider Australian viewing public.” The first phase of the expansion of NPC Media has seen the incorporation of Seven’s key broadcast operations into the NPC facility, and the progressive transformation of the center from a single-station facility to a contemporary, IP-based, multi-tenanted managed media services provider to the broadcast industry. Seven’s channels went live from NPC Media on 21 August 2019. The next phase will see the implementation of Southern Cross Austereo’s broadcast channels into NPC later this year. This phase will see the deployment of the Imagine Communications playout solutions across two sites — main at NPC, with protect located at Telstra Broadcast Services facility in Sydney — providing geo-diverse redundancy for NPC Media and its customers. Combined, these exciting first phases of the launch will support more than 211 live terrestrial television channels managed by NPC Media, together with a further 392 passthrough multiplexed channels. This approach will deliver new levels of operational and cost efficiencies not previously achievable using traditional technology platforms. To support this massive endeavor, NPC Media will implement an end-to-end broadcast playout chain from a common ingest platform through to software-based channel origination, which is based on Imagine Communications’ proven, award-winning Versio product suite. Versio was first deployed by the Nine Network to integrate NBN Television’s playout operations into the NPC in June 2018. Imagine Communications provided a full IP solution running under D-Series control and seamlessly integrated into the center’s existing baseband system, enabling Nine to manage the NBN Regional channels, as well as realize new advertising and revenue opportunities by breaking into a seventh regional market, in Northern New South Wales. “As proven with NBN, the ability to progressively introduce our new IP-based Versio platform, whilst retaining the day-to-day operations under Imagine Communications’ D-Series automation platform, allows NPC Media to transition its customers to the new platform more easily and efficiently,” said Joe Khodeir, head of sales Australia and New Zealand at Imagine Communications. Khodeir continued, “We have been working closely with NPC Media and its customers for over a decade. During that period, our platforms and services have helped them profitably address the dynamics of a constantly changing, multiplatform and ‘on-demand’ media business, and to implement new services to help reduce costs and deliver new offerings to market more quickly.” Running as software instances on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware, the Versio solution delivers playout, master control and graphics in a single device all under the control of D-Series. Versio is based on Imagine Communications’ visionary Zenium™ microservices platform, which allows tight integration of third-party products; for example, NPC Media is running Vizrt graphics on Versio to support its premium channels, while Versio Graphics are used for channels with less complex graphics requirements. The new implementation includes the Versio IOX NAS high-performance shared storage and Imagine’s EPIC™ MV hybrid IP multiviewer. Integration between baseband and IP systems is managed by the company’s Magellan™ SDN Orchestrator, which also supports seamless switching, whether through a baseband router or an IP switch. Tom Cotney, CEO at Imagine Communications, added, “This is a remarkable project — one of the boldest in the world — and we are proud to have been chosen as technology partner by NPC Media. The Australian market is hugely important to us, and we look forward to future innovation with Australia’s largest managed media services provider.”