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TV Will Move to IP in Two Years, Says Imagine CEO Charlie Vogt

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“TV will move to IP sooner than people think,” predicted Charlie Vogt, CEO of  Imagine Communications, announcing a collaboration with Microsoft at IBC today. “The differentiation between broadcaster and operator competitors in broadcast should be the content and the logo, not the network. This won't happen until we can commoditize the network.

Recorded content can move to IP today but the question is how soon will live content move to IP, Vogt said. "We are seeing more and more cameras that will be IP-enabled. It's not five years away. I'd say it will happen over the next two years. You can mark my word on that.”

Imagine is launching Zenium, described as a software defined workflow management platform available for deployment on Microsoft Azure. Zenium will be available on Microsoft Azure Media Services, “enabling customers to design and launch efficient, scalable, cloud-based media processing applications, workflows, and services,” noted the product release.

“Together, Imagine Communications and Microsoft will transform the cloud media services landscape,” Vogt said.

Vogt and Imagine have assembled a team that includes Brad Wall, vice president of broadcast operations at Disney (ABC); Balan Nair, CTO of Liberty Global; Jeff Eales, director of system development at BSkyB; the 7 Network's Andrew Anderson; and IBM's Steve Canepa for a live streamed discussion on the future of broadcasting, September 12 at 12:45PM EDT/18.45 CET.

“Broadcasters and MVPDs are increasingly transitioning to software-based cloud environments, said Microsoft Azure's Sudheer Sirivara, partner director of engineering. "Imagine's modular software environment for running specialized and custom workflows at scale ideally meshes with our virtually unlimited cloud capacity.”

The future of broadcasting is about IP protocols and software defined environments that can take advantage of mobility, virtualization, and the cloud, Vogt said. He keynoted the IBC Conference opening session "Assessing the Future of Broadcast TV."

“There are tens of thousands of ‘snowflake’ networks that were designed in their own way, and that has created a lot of limitations for those broadcasters and content distributors to participate in the ‘future’ network," Vogt argued.

“Our customers can't continue to spend the kind of money they are currently spending in proprietary, black box playout and networking gear which needs forklift upgrading every 5 to 7 years because of inefficiencies of the hardware. They need a better cost model. The biggest challenge for companies like us is how you get from here to there. Its an evolution. There will be hybrid networks and workflows in the short term but we are focused on delivering software architectures today.

“For a decade we've been searching for the killer app and over the last couple of years mobility has helped us define video as the killer app. Some 75 percent of all web traffic over the next few years will be video. Mobile is already deeply disrupting the video industry. Of the 40 percent of CAGR rate in online video, 23 percent of that is tied up in real-time video consumption. We all have to embrace the change or get left behind.”

Networks need to migrate away from hardware to those that are defined by software, and move from proprietary to an open service-oriented network architecture, Vogt said. They need to standardise on IP, and take advantage of mobility, virtualisation and the cloud, he added.

Vogt, who joined Imagine in the summer of 2013 and led it through a transformative year during which it shifted from its longtime moniker of Harris Broadcast and acquired companies including Digital Rapids, believes this innovation will occur during this decade.

“There’s going to be some early adopters in 2015, and a second wave in 2016 and 2017, and before 2020 a lot of the major broadcasters and OTT players are going to be participating," Vogt said.

In Other Announcements

VersioCloud is the industry’s first IP-enabled, integrated cloud playout platform, Imagine said.

“VersioCloud’s disruptive new technology is the ultimate competitive advantage because it simplifies the creation and management of channels, advancing the monetization of content into new demographic or geographic markets,” Vogt said. "While other offerings are burdened by hardware codecs or GPUs, VersioCloud is the industry’s only solution that is 100 percent software running on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) IT platforms.” It works with Zenium.

Also new is Magellan SDN (Software-Defined Networking) Orchestrator, described as a software control system for managing hybrid baseband and IP facilities. It enables integration of legacy baseband and IP networks to turn the “sea of equipment” into a set of defined, managed workflows that support the concurrent coexistence of IP streams, files, and baseband signals.

Pay TV operator Sky Italia is the first major customer.

Imagine also unveiled Nexio Channelbrand, a multichannel branding platform which uses Adobe After Effects rendering to offer a new approach to graphics template creation and workflows from creation to air.

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