How, when, why and what: Behind the scenes on SES’ new Stockley Park facility
SVG Europe recently caught up with Susanna Mandel-Mantello, vice president and head of sales, sports and events at SES, to discuss the company’s new sports and event broadcasting centre at Stockley Park in London.
The new facility has been designed to help broadcasters deliver content as sports make their comeback across Europe, following lockdown, helping to simplify sports production workflow.
SVG Europe: When SES started planning this facility, why did it decide to do it? What was the need for it?
Susanna Mandel-Mantello: Working closely with our sports and events customers over the years has given us a first-hand insight into the challenges they experience, especially when it comes to the complexity of sports production.
At SES, we pride ourselves on being a one-stop-shop for our customers, and with that in mind, we wanted to address their needs for different types of services by creating a dedicated sports facility in Europe.
The aim of the facility is to support our customers’ satellite and IP transmissions, as well as offer additional production support, such as graphics, studios, and commentary booths. When looking at locations in Europe, we immediately identified London as a prime spot given the number of sports agencies and connectivity options in the area.
The Stockley Park facility not only benefits our customers; it streamlines our workflow and minimises our manual efforts. We can now process all London-based feeds at one location and send them to our teleports for distribution only.
Who do you expect to be using this facility in the near future?
Currently, SES works with a variety of customers in the sports field. We expect that all of our sports and events customers will benefit from the Stockley Park facility and the services we will be providing there.
Through this facility we can closer focus on needs of our customers, providing them with a one-stop-shop for sports production and distribution.
Have there been any challenges in building this site out during lockdown? What exactly, and how were these issues overcome?
We had a short timeframe to complete the Stockley Park facility. Construction took place between January and March 2020, for an estimated launch of the facility at the beginning of April.
We were approximately 90% ready when COVID-19 lockdowns in the UK began, which slightly delayed our grand opening. Due to COVID-19, no one was permitted to work on the facility for about 90 days.
We were able to resume with putting the finishing touches on Stockley Park in July when UK restrictions were lifted. During that time, our UK team was working from home and training on all systems remotely.
After returning in July, we completed the renovations and began rolling out services. After fully vetting every system and connectivity in and out of the facility, we officially launched our full time services on 1 September. The doors at Stockley Park are now open for business, and we couldn’t be prouder of our team for making it happen.
How is this facility building on your London presence?
This is the first fully owned SES facility in London supporting live and non-live feeds. SES delivers over 620 hours of premium sports and live events daily, so we’re heavily immersed in the sports broadcasting world. We’re excited about this new facility in London, a huge sports hub, where we can better serve the needs of our customers.
SES has a commercial office in central London but we have announced plans to shut down that office earlier this year. The idea is that we will just have one office in Greater London, and that is Stockley Park.
What equipment from which manufacturers is being used at Stockley Park?
Below is a list of some the equipment we’re using in the Stockley Park facility. We expect to deploy even more solutions in 2021 and beyond, based on the key projects we’ve already secured.
- MediaKind and Ateme encoders and decoders
- Evertz EQX hybrid IP router
- For-A 9100 frame rate converters
- Nimbra and Cisco network connectivity
- DataMiner network management system
What makes this facility unique? Why use this and not a rival’s for sports broadcasting?
The number one thing that sets us apart from any other sports production facility is connectivity. Stockley Park offers direct connectivity to the fully redundant global SES network.
Broadcasters and content owners can tap into SES’s robust IP, fibre, terrestrial, and satellite hybrid network infrastructure to deliver and receive feeds. In addition, they’ve got direct connectivity to the BT Tower, IMG, and numerous PoPs.
From Stockley Park customers can directly connect to SES playout facilities, data centres, and teleports located all over the world for global acquisition and distribution.
The connectivity that we’re offering at Stockley Park is unparalleled and it’s completely resilient, meaning that broadcasters are guaranteed 100% continuity for live broadcasting.
Another unique benefit of Stockley Park is its location. Stockley Park houses multiple key players in the sports and media world, including IMG. It’s also in close proximity to Heathrow Airport, making it easy to access.
Finally, SES has a highly experienced team of on-site project managers and technical operational support staff at Stockley Park. We’re there to help customers reach more viewers in any way we can with boots on the ground.