NAB 2019 Reflections: Tata’s Brian Morris on connectivity, cloud services, and virtualisation
Global digital infrastructure provider Tata Communications recently upgraded its sponsorship of SVG Europe to Platinum level. At NAB in Las Vegas we sat down with Brian Morris, vice president and general manager of global media and entertainment services, to discuss the company’s perception that digital technology innovation is driving a new era of growth for sports organisations, rights holders and broadcasters.
“Our sports business is growing pretty dramatically,” he said. “We’ve been involved with Formula 1 and the Williams team for seven years now. But more recently we’ve added Dorna and MotoGP and Super Bike racing. We’re also working closely with European Tour golf, the IPL with the Star guys in India, and we’re doing a lot of work with women’s soccer throughout the United States with Vista as a partner.
“We’re also involved with FIA World Rally Championship now, and in heavy discussions with two or three other properties that are sports-oriented. I started here about five years ago when we carried about 15,000 hours; we’re going to carry about 200,000 hours of premium sports content as of last year. It’s a sizeable chunk of business for us,” said Morris.
“Very much relevant to sports is the work we’ve been doing with remote production. We’ve been a lot with connectivity and remote switching and things of that nature. IPL for Star out of India is all done remotely now. We’ve done matches in Australia and matches in the UK for Star, all remotely produced. All the women’s soccer is done remotely out of Hollywood, Florida – all brought in remotely from across the country. For Sky UK we do all the Formula 1 coverage remotely. Everything is brought back.
“And now we are putting instances in the cloud that allow you to do a lot of production activity, graphical overlay, splicing and all the audio work over the cloud. It provides another layer of efficiency, and it also provides the ability to have distributed production. And access to more talent.
“The CTO of Technicolor told me yesterday that they’re doing a ton of work in Bangalore and they have actually saturated the market. They can’t find enough graphic talent to fulfil their production requirement. So by having these remote tools, it allows them to go into other areas and other markets; it doesn’t even have to be in India. A hotel room, or your home, becomes a production facility.”
While global connectivity is your base as a service provider, the message here at NAB is that you’re adding further enabling layers on top?
“From Tata Communications’ perspective, our asset pool is our network. We have 225,000 kilometres of undersea cable. If you look at the terrestrial assets you can add about another 600,000 of cable. We hit all parts of the planet. On top of that we have a host of data centres that are connected. It’s unique: the largest network if you take in voice and internet traffic, and we’re overlaying video traffic. It took a lot of time to get there.
“We have our network and our data centres, and we’ve layered on 500 media hubs across the planet to reach all continents. And now we’re adding on software stacks to allow users to store content, secure it, manipulate and reformat, and monetise.
“It’s really taking stuff that used to be done historically on appliances, in rooms with air conditioners and engineers, and moving it to cloud-based instances,” he said.
Another trend that we’re seeing is sports federations and associations becoming involved in quite large-scale content production, alongside the established base of set-piece live broadcast production infrastructure?
“Most definitely. If you look at SailGP, which we did recently: it’s a niche sport, and it’s in remote locations – beautiful locations. With an affluent audience. So there’s a place for it. By doing this production remotely in centralised locations, we could bring the cost down considerably. And the quality levels are very high.
“If you look at viewing habits of different generations – content owners are having a hard time keeping eyeballs. And the trend towards virtualisation and remote production is only going to go one way.
“The Dorna guys doubled their capacity. The first year was to move from satellite to fibre. The second year was to do a little bit [of remote production] and test it. And now they’re going full bore. And the guys at Sky have announced that by 2020, everything is remote production. So we feel that market segment has a good run ahead – both on the premium side and on tiers 2 and 3. And we will keep layering on more and more capabilities, offering the service of doing remote production for you as a turnkey,” said Morris.