Imagine Communications has gone live with the first phase of an innovative new playout infrastructure for MBC Group, the largest media company in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Imagine and MBC collaborated over an extended period to achieve the broadcaster’s goals of creating a highly efficient playout automation environment that protects revenue streams through multiple, interlocking redundancies, while providing opportunities for future expansion.
To deliver both the cost-effectiveness and operational flexibility that MBC Group sought, the entire solution at the broadcaster’s headquarters in Dubai Media City has been implemented in software running on COTS hardware. Pivotal to the installation is Imagine’s scalable Versio modular playout solution, which allows MBC to quickly and cost-effectively add new channels to meet its changing business needs, while enabling the addition of new functionalities without disruption to the broadcaster’s daily operations.
“MBC is a market-leading broadcaster, and we intend to continue to grow,” said Nader Mokhtar, director of MCR, broadcast and STB technology at MBC Group. “Central to our planning is a highly automated playout operation, which provides a high level of security and resilience, and allows us to maximise our revenues across multiple platforms. Imagine Communications impressed us with a detailed proof of concept that demonstrated that their dedicated regional team really understood our long-term requirements, and could deliver an agile, scalable solution that would match our needs.”
The modular nature of Versio enables media companies to choose from an industry-leading variety of functionality on an as-needed basis. Via Versio Graphics, MBC can leverage Adobe After Effects to create and modify sophisticated graphics in real time, even while on-air. The touchscreen-based Versio Master Control Surface (MCS) provides live control for all functionality, simplifying and streamlining MBC’s workflow from creation to air.
Mokhtar added: “An important requirement was to integrate After Effects into the workflow to deliver outstanding on-air graphics, synonymous with the MBC brand. Imagine Communications understood those requirements and has provided a tightly integrated, highly resilient and scalable end-to-end playout infrastructure that can grow as our needs change.”
The first phase of the playout center is equipped to deliver 11 premium HD channels, with full N+N redundancy and seamless failover. Centralised control of the Versio playout channels, graphics and master control, as well as all third-party devices, is handled by Imagine’s field-proven ADC automation. Versio IOX high-performance storage delivers large-scale shared storage for all content and playback and provides an environment in which third-party software tools can be readily incorporated.
Imagine Communications’ Nexio+ AMP video servers manage content ingest with content workflows controlled using the Nexio Motion workflow orchestrator, in conjunction with the Versio IOX shared storage. The software-defined architecture provides interfaces to a number of external networks, including traffic and scheduling, as well as data sources for the on-air graphics.
Source material and live feeds are delivered as SDI signals, which can be seamlessly switched in the Imagine Platinum IP3 router - ensuring fault-free delivery with minimum latency. The Platinum IP3 integrated multiviewer functionality provides MBC with a highly reliable and space-saving monitoring solution. Imagine’s Magellan SDN Orchestrator software control system handles signal management and paves the way for hybrid IP/SDI expansion in future phases. Channel outputs are delivered to the various platforms in a mixture of hybrid SDI or compressed transport streams.
“This is a significant project for the region and indeed for Imagine,” said Anas Hantash, head of Middle East, South Asia and North Africa for Imagine Communications. “It’s a groundbreaking playout platform for MBC, which delivers excellent production values and precision playout with extremely high reliability. Our software approach means MBC can scale the solution almost infinitely, in terms of the number of channels, its geo-diversity, and where required, additional functionality. All this in a solution that comfortably meets MBC’s CAPEX and OPEX targets, while establishing a strong platform for growth in the future. I’m extremely proud of the journey we have taken with MBC’s experts. We worked closely as a team to first identify all the business workflow challenges and then to explore areas of improvement. The conclusion is the implementation of a state-of-the-art solution that addresses MBC’s business needs today and enables a smooth future expansion for the next phases of their business growth.”
The new system contract was awarded to Imagine Communications in May 2020, commissioned in late 2020 and went on air in March 2021.
MBC Group and Imagine Communications won the 2021 Digital Studio Award for 'Excellence in Technical Installation and Supplier Innovation' for the implementation of Imagine’s Versio playout solution at MBC’s Dubai facility. The award ceremony was held in Dubai last week.