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Asharq News deploys Lawo VSM to control IP infrastructure

Asharq News, a major multiplatform economic and political news service launched in November last year, has deployed Lawo’s VSM Virtual Studio Manager Broadcast Control System for the overall control of its infrastructure. The first project in the MENA region to have a fully IP-based media infrastructure, it uses virtualised on-premises systems and cloud applications as a hybrid architecture for content aggregation, production and distribution.

Asharq News has ambitious goals in the development of its media centre, and relied on a team of international architects, local construction companies and systems integrator Qvest Media for all technology issues right from the design concept and space planning of the building.

Lawo’s Virtual Studio Manager (VSM) as the overall IP production layer controls the video backbone and manages the audio IP streams. 34 hardware panels and several software GUIs are in place as a system interface for a smooth, standardised workflow. VSM integrates with the broadcast equipment, including video routers, video switchers, audio routers, audio consoles, multi-viewers, intercoms, modular equipment and many special third-party devices. By talking native protocols where possible, equipment from different manufacturers can be seamlessly “glued” together, giving recall and logic control possibilities system-wide. With a modern TCP/IP backbone, VSM utilises standard IT hardware but enhances reliability and redundancy with sophisticated software redundancy concepts.

An additional service for multi-studio facilities with frequent changes to the studio floor setup, like Asharq, is VSM’s new Wallboxing functionality, which allows moving devices across an API-controlled IP infrastructure and to maintain flow connectivity. In a large production facility, devices like stage boxes, monitors, teleprompters, etc., are likely to be moved around a lot. Wallboxing ensures that existing IP links are re-established when a device is connected to a switch port at the new location.

With most mobile phone users not turning their devices to watch videos anymore, Asharq felt the need to offer a smoother viewing experience with its vertical format.

Asharq News has launched a mobile vertical live streaming format based on artificial intelligence. Through its partnership with French tech company Wildmoka, Asharq News now leverages the state-of-the-art Auto ReZone solution that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning, to enable automatic, 24/7 and real-time transformation of horizontal layouts into vertical.

In this context, Dr Nabeel Al-Khatib, General Manager of Asharq News, said: “The launch of the state-of-art solution is in line with our core priority to provide a seamless and impactful experience for our audiences in the Arab world and beyond through leveraging cutting-edge technology and implementing digital transformation.”

He pointed out that media consumption today is increasingly dependent on smart devices, media organisations need to take into consideration the rapid adoption of technology to ensure a smooth viewing user experience.

The case for providing content in a vertical format is clear. A large majority of people, especially among younger generations, do not turn their devices when watching videos on mobile. This is due to the basic ergonomics of mobile devices that are designed to fit into the palm of the user’s hand. It requires two hands to hold a phone horizontally, so it is more convenient and natural for people to hold smartphones vertically when watching video.

Steven Cheak, Creative Services and Digital Director at Asharq News commented: “With this breakthrough solution, we can finally resolve the challenge that has puzzled news broadcasters for years – despite smartphones becoming the primary channels for news consumption, news broadcasters continue to live stream horizontally, something Asharq News have overcame.”

Asharq News announced phase one of the vertical streaming was deployed in February 2021 across Asharq News’ websites, while phase two will extend the solution across Asharq News’ apps, Asharq NOW for video-on-demand.

“We are delighted to see Auto ReZone entering a new region,” explained Cristian Livadiotti, CEO of Wildmoka. He added: “We are sure that with this innovation, Asharq News will stand apart from other news providers and engage new and younger audiences”.

Livadiotti added: “We are confident that the use of Auto Rezone will increase the level of satisfaction of Asharq News platform users. This advanced technology will provide a seamless experience for Asharq audiences especially the younger generation. The solution presented today is a result of months of joint forces with Asharq News to offer the solution distinguishing Asharq News from other news providers in the region.” BroadcastProME

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