Nine Transforms IP with Cisco

One of the first and largest broadcast centres to run entirely over Internet Protocol (IP) in Australia can be found in Nine’s new North Sydney office, with Cisco supporting the organisation’s transition to digital. Nine’s office campus is entirely connected to Cisco’s digital infrastructure built on IP fabric to provide increased efficiency, agility and flexibility.

The transformational shift to IP powered broadcasting pivots the sharing of information through a private network connection, replacing the reliance on an uplink and downlink to an external satellite. This enables high quality studio and broadcast content to be shared across the network quicker than before, all the way from HD to Ultra-HD.

Along with the IP fabric for media (IPFM) network (SMPTE 2110) powered by Nexus 9000 and Cisco’s Data Centre Network Manager (DCNM), the digital transformation is underpinned by a foundation of solutions including Cisco’s campus switching (Catalyst 9000 family Nexus 9000), Wi-Fi 6, Data Centre Networking (Nexus 9000 family), WAN Connectivity, and DNA Centre.

This move to IP is a first for broadcasters in Australia, and reflects a huge technology shift in the industry from location based ways of working to a wholly digital experience, with the ability to broadcast from anywhere. It comes at a time when news production moves faster than ever before to keep up with the demands of news content in a connected, 24 hour news cycle, that has been further acceleratated through the pandemic.

Natively in IP from the beginning of the journey, the content can be accessed, and remotely produced from anywhere, especially useful for roving reporters and producers previously bound to the studio – cutting the cables that connected them to the world to go digital, which at times was more than one per device. The flexibility of the network enables more agility for collaboration across sites, with reliable network connectivity as the only requirement.

Nine’s Director of Broadcast Operations, Geoff Sparke (pictured) says, “Historically Nine’s TV business relied on a vast network of bespoke broadcast production installations around the country, each operating in isolation. Now, all we need is a camera – anywhere – connected to our private network, giving us greater speed, simplifying access and control, solidifying Nine’s place as Australia’s leading media company.”

The technology transformation and move to digital through the IP network provides flexibility for growth as the industry and video standards continue to evolve, such as with the emerging 4K.

Cisco’s Managing Director, Australia and New Zealand Service Provider Organisation, Karen Negus said, “The Cisco IP infrastructure supports a whole new way of working for Nine, enabled by technology to work from anywhere with a high quality and more agile framework. It also provides the foundation for the next wave of digital transformation for Nine to accelerate and advance into a completely new era of digital broadcasting, first.”

Previously the IP network wasn’t suitable for these workloads due to the large bandwidth requirement. Cisco’s non-blocking multicast (NBM) brought bandwidth awareness to the network that enabled reliable delivery of these signals within facility and across facilities, and Precision Time Protocol (PTP) on the Nexus 9k ensured all devices remained perfectly synced . Leveraging streaming telemetry, the network provides real time visibility to the workflow, that enables the operator to simplify their day to day operations.

“This new technology backbone is a game-changer for Nine and will future-proof our business for many years to come”, says Sparke.

“Outdoor broadcasts such as the Tennis or Rugby are no longer reliant on a single thread satellite feed, and our news reporters are now just a connection away, in high definition. All this content, plus even more from around the country and the world, is now immediately available in our operation control centre, where our teams can package it up and get it to air in just minutes.”

North Sydney is the first site for Nine to move to IP, and will be rolled out more broadly. The transformation was completed in three short months, with a test run on a Friday, and everything broadcasting from the new office on the Saturday. Cisco’s Customer Experience team enabled Nine to tap into a global pool of resources, in support of a successful transition.

Nine’s Director of Broadcast Operations, Geoff Sparke, said of the partnership: “For us it’s a bit like flipping the production and business model from black and white to colour. This is the future of broadcasting and together with Cisco, we’re shaping it.”

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