MultiChoice launches UHD channels for coverage of World Cup with Imagine Communications

MultiChoice, the operator of African sports broadcaster SuperSport, took UHD channels to air for the first time using a hybrid SDI-IP playout and infrastructure foundation from Imagine Communications during the football World Cup in Qatar. A long-established user of Imagine playout and automation technology, MultiChoice added two UHD channels based on the Versio integrated playout platform to provide sports fans with comprehensive, premium-quality coverage of the tournament.

The MultiChoice playout centre already delivers 32 channels from a fully redundant Versio architecture, ensuring robust and secure operations for its existing channels. The new project added two more channels to support the mission-critical premium sports content from the tournament. While the existing system is predominantly used for HD playout, the Versio IOX storage network enables easy scaling to accommodate additional bandwidth needed for UHD applications without affecting existing media or interrupting on-air operations.

“We have worked with Imagine Communications for many years and are familiar with their playout and automation architectures,” said Julian Ankiah, head of technology engineering & support at MultiChoice. “Working with Concilium, Imagine’s partner in South Africa, we integrated UHD for the World Cup into our existing playout centre, with minimal disruption to existing operations, while delivering on the flexibility and quality that our audience demands.”

Further to this, Gerdus Van Eerden, group chief technology officer at MultiChoice, added: “These new UHD channels are leading the way for us, and are part of a rolling redevelopment programme that will see all our outputs moving towards IP.”

The two new channels support SMPTE ST2110 IP inputs at 4K, 50fps and HLG BT 2020 HDR from the host broadcaster. These are seamlessly switched in the Versio platform with stored content in SDR and HDR, at 25 and 50fps. Audio is input as PCM (ST2110-30) and output as PCM or Dolby (SMPTE ST2110-31), with track shuffling as required, source substitution and Dolby up-mixing. A dedicated UHD workstation was configured to provide offline graphics creation for the duration of the event to alleviate any impact on the existing playout operation. The whole sub-system runs on COTS hardware on site in Johannesburg.

Imagine Selenio Network Processors (SNP) provide IP/SDI interfaces, as well as other video and audio processing, and operate under the control of the Magellan Control System, Imagine’s operator-centric management environment. Coupled with the Magellan Control System, the SNP enables media companies to efficiently and cost-effectively transition to UHD and HDR workflows over traditional or COTS-based, IP networking fabrics.

The new UHD channels are under the control of D-Series™, which is integrated into the existing playout management system and is familiar to the operators. It also integrates seamlessly with MultiChoice’s advertising management and traffic system, which uses Imagine Landmark Sales and Landmark Rights and Scheduling software, ensuring that the broadcaster maximised its revenue opportunities during this period of extremely popular viewing.

“MultiChoice is a large and complex operation, serving among others, the sports market, which depends on delivering a flawless experience for its viewing audience,” said Mathias Eckert, SVP & GM EMEA and APAC at Imagine Communications. “This project really plays to our strengths by leveraging components from across our entire portfolio ― from automation and playout to network infrastructure and advertising technology ― which enabled us to support the delivery and monetisation of these premium UHD channels during this marquee global tournament.”

“MultiChoice already rely on our mission-critical integrated solutions, and we have been working together for some time to transition their operations at their pace. The additional redundant channels we implemented for the football tournament fit seamlessly into their existing infrastructure and will be a key part of their operations in the future. This allows MultiChoice to maximise its capital investment while providing a valuable step forward.”


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