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IBC '17: Cisco Says It Will Make IP Better Than Broadcast

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Cisco continues to take its knowledge of networks into media, saying broadcast is better for live coverage of peak sports events but that it already has the answer.

"Last Super Bowl, 110 million people tuned in to watch the Patriots' comeback win," said Conrad Clemson SVP & GM, service provider platforms at Cisco. "It was watched live online by 2 million people. Two million out of 110 million—that's small. Why? Because the Super Bowl experience is simply better on satellite or cable delivered in HD."

He relayed his experience trying to stream Boston Red Sox games this summer while travelling abroad.  "Sometimes the video wouldn't start. Other times it would pause … buffering. And sometimes the video resolution would become so low that you couldn't tell what was happening. Consumers, including myself, have come to expect a pretty high standard for video experiences.

"We are going to fix that by making IP video experiences better than broadcast," he added.

Cisco says that its "IP better than broadcast" initiative is about video-aware networking. "It's taking what we know about the network and what we know about video and starting to tie those together for the benefit of the service provider and the consumer."

Dave Ward, CTO of engineering and chief architect at Cisco, claimed: "Where we are with the technology is significantly ahead of the industry's timeline. The entire decade-long trend of software-defined networking at Cisco has happened. We have the technology to deliver end-to-end workflows over the network for live sports, TV news, or sitcoms, or whatever to become an essentially push-button orchestration."

It announced Cisco Media Blueprint which is presented as a set of IP-based infrastructure and software solutions that help media companies on-ramp to cloud and to produce more content in higher resolutions.

Ostensibly it's about using Cisco tech to automate video programming and delivery.

On board with this approach are outside broadcast provider Arena TV (which has based its IP-only UHD trucks around a Cisco IP switch); BBC Wales (which is building the corporation's first all-IP broadcast hub in Cardiff around Cisco fabric); Sky New Zealand; CANAL+, Fox Networks Engineering & Operations, and NBCUniversal.

The latter is transitioning from SDI to IP with Cisco's IP Fabric for Media, managing video distribution over terrestrial IP with the Cisco Virtual Digital Content Manager and the Cisco D9800 Network Transport Receiver platform, and virtualizing media workflows in NBCU's Media Operations Centers based on Cisco solutions.

"By pushing decisions to the edge of the network, service providers are able to improve feature velocity, reduce operational costs, and deliver more personalized experiences to the consumer," Ward said. "Format decisions for the subscriber device can be made at the edge of the network, freeing up bandwidth."

Supporting this initiative, a new training program is being designed. Its aim is to meet the needs of media and entertainment companies and broadcasters by equipping engineers and technicians with the skills needed to migrate video production to IP. Cisco will introduce a two-day foundational training and a five-day technical deep-dive training in spring 2018.

Cisco also announced it has partnered with Intel to make an interoperability testing lab "because without it lots of professional workflow concepts cannot be validated among systems partners," said Ward.

Cisco noted that there were 10 billion connected devices already in the world—a number which will double in the next few years.

It should come as no surprise to anyone with a video subscription and a connected device that video is shifting to IP and mobile. According to Cisco's Virtual Networking Index, 82% of IP traffic will be driven by video by 2020. Viewing hours of live OTT video is expected to overtake traditional broadcast TV, according to the hundreds of industry pros who participated in a recent survey by Level 3 Communications, Streaming Media and Unisphere Research.

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