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ITV moves delivery of simulcast channels to AWS

The ITV live streaming platform provides six linear channels to the ITV Hub app and delivers these channels directly to third-party distribution partners. Its content offering runs the gamut from children’s series to soap operas, talk shows, major events, live sports – including the UEFA Euro 2020 Football Championships – and reality series’ like Love Island.

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Historically, ITV Hub relied on 15 on-premises encoders, but the company has moved a majority of its video processing and transport into the cloud with the help of AWS Elemental MediaLive and AWS Elemental MediaConnect. The latest update is part of ITV’s larger strategic initiative to embrace a more cloud-native infrastructure for greater flexibility in developing and deploying new approaches to content distribution while reducing its datacentre footprint.

“Linear transmission is alive and kicking, but the trajectory is shifting to more stream-based viewing. Having more of our live stream workflow in the cloud will allow us to better serve all of our audiences and keep pace with evolving viewer expectations,” said Andrew Pearson, Principal Solutions Architect, Content Supply and Distribution, ITV. “Considering the scope of the project, we carefully examined our options, and AWS emerged as a clear winner in many categories.”

The updated platform is distributed across two playout centres located in the north and south of the UK. These playout centres provide the six ITV channels for satellite and terrestrial transmission, and to the live streaming platform encoders. The AWS Elemental Live encoders process the incoming HD SDI video into contribution quality transport streams at 25 Mbps, which are then received in the cloud by MediaConnect.

MediaLive transcodes the feeds into three adaptive bitrate variants for PC, mobile and connected TV devices. This cloud path is across multiple Availability Zones for added resilience. Multi-region operation is also an option to add another level of resilience. Additional stream processing provides packaging to HLS and DASH, digital rights management, advert replacement conditioning, and distribution via CDN.

“SaaS and the cloud in general are attractive because they’re simple and convenient. We can use MediaConnect to MediaLive and spin up resources, even from a home office if needed, to handle peak audiences for a major live event and then spin them down once complete, and that flexibility is economical; it’s transforming broadcast as we’ve come to know it,” explained Pearson. “MediaLive, in particular, is a robust transcoding engine that provides all of the functionality we need, while MediaConnect enables reliable handling of the ground streams for onward distribution within the cloud.”

Improved monitoring is also an important requirement. Using services such as Amazon CloudWatch, the team is able to see, monitor and track in-depth metrics that point to potential stream issues.

Pearson says, “There’s no point in having the highest quality streams in the cloud if that’s not how they appear to the viewer, so within this update, making sure that we are aware of what’s happening in AWS was a key factor. We were able to achieve this by bringing all of the monitoring capabilities that CloudWatch offers (alarms, events, logs) into an aggregation system that alerts us to any issues in real-time.”

ITV is evaluating how other AWS solutions might improve both internal operations and the viewer experience. Amazon Rekognition and AWS CloudFormation are just a few of many additional AWS services that the company is exploring.

Pearson concluded, “The volume of technology that AWS is continuously rolling out is impressive, and as new services emerge, we’re looking at how we might implement them to improve our workflows, whether using AI to detect missing advert markers or creating regional stream variations in the cloud. By building our video workflow on AWS, there are all sorts of improvements that we will be able to implement in the coming years.” The Broadcast Bridge

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