Sky Italia’s Francesco Zupi discusses latest innovations in interactive TV

In a move designed to improve content discovery among its viewers, Sky Italia has introduced mosaic screens for a variety of sports content. The broadcaster’s interactive manager, Francesco Zupi, sat down with SVG Europe to discuss these and other new developments boosting viewer interactivity and knowledge-gathering.

To summarise briefly, the mosaic screen comprises multiple small windows, affording viewers at home the opportunity to rapidly see what is being broadcast on different channels. There are both “normal” and special events mosaics, with various sports tournaments among the beneficiaries of the latter.

He explains: “Every window in the mosaic is a channel: in some cases the windows link to existing channels; in other cases they are dedicated channels that exist in mosaic mode that require additional satellite bandwidth. The mosaic itself is similar to a video channel and then it is one more channel to consider. Some mosaics are broadcast in HD.

“Behind each mosaic a dedicated hardware called ‘mosaic-creator’ receives a series of input signals, and in output returns a mosaic [that is] channel-shaped.

“The interactive control room is the space where the events are handled and it is set up for two or three hours of live programming for each event. It is something that requires considerable levels of expertise and plenty of specialists within the Sky team.”

The mosaic area by Sky features 35 input signals in HD and four graphics stations by Dalet, assisted by 12 monitoring stations, two Dalet editing workstations, four Avid 4 AirSpeed video servers, three Avid CountDown stations, four suites with TVs and set-top-boxes and six Kaleido mosaic generators. Then, in output, we have two mosaics in HD (ie. Serie A mosaic and and F1 mosaic), an HD feed goals alert, a feed in HD for personal live choice race control and 10 HD feeds (ie. Gol Parade Live and Highlights).

The mosaic for soccer’s Serie A is divided in turn into two mosaics: the Mosaic Series A for live matches on Sundays, and the Gold Parade Mosaic for the post-game coverage with all the goals and highlights. There is also another mosaic for the Champions live and post-game material, entitled Gold Champions Parade.

But the commitment of Sky to the mosaics is not completed there because there are also those dedicated to Moto GP and Formula 1.

Boosting content discovery

The mosaics from Sky have been created to improve ‘content discovery’ – an activity to improve the user experience that springs from the EPG. Two decoders are available to customers, based on the middleware software Open TV and Fusion. Fusion Internal at MySky HD enables the display of graphics in HD and sports many other exciting features, too.

If connected to the network, the user can enjoy the full interactivity of the mosaics. For example, with MotoGP is generally possible to choose between coverage from the perspective of different drivers while the race is underway. Data is measured in intermediate times on the circuit and then the user can compare several drivers, see the gap to the leaders, the gap from one to the other, the best recorded time, the maximum speed and so on. Several different mosaics are available, with material including what is essentially a director’s view featuring onboard and helicopter camera feeds. The viewer, then, has a great opportunity to choose between considerable amounts of different material for each given event.

In football, one mosaic revolves around simultaneous feeds of many parallel events, and the ability to jump between one another very quickly and/or watch them simultaneously.

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