AMC Networks International Southern Europe: 24 TV Channels delivering first-class content
AMC, Sundance TV, DARK, Blast, BLAZE, Odisea, Historia… They are just some examples of the channels that AMC Networks International Southern Europe produce and distribute for the Spanish, Portuguese, French and Italian markets. These ambitious developments are preparing for the future via OTT developments, 4K-ready workflows or even a mobile platform which offers VR videos (OdiseaVR). TM Broadcast interviews Jose Nabais, Chief Technical Officer de AMC Networks International Southern Europe (AMCNISE) to learn more.
What’s AMC Networks International Southern Europe scope of action?
At AMC Networks International Southern Europe (AMCNISE) we produce and distribute 24 pay- TV channels targeted to a wide range of audiences, with brands specialized in film and series, documentaries, lifestyle, music and kids’ content. We are headquartered in Madrid where we manage all of our operations in Spain, Portugal and France, while our broadcasting centre is in Barcelona. We also operate our direct to consumer services OdiseaVR, Microcanales and Planet Horror.
As for the channels Historia, Blaze and Crime + Investigation, these are produced in Spain and Portugal through The History Channel Iberia, our joint venture with Hearst. Additionally, Canal Hollywood, Canal Panda, Biggs and Casa e Cozinha are exclusively produced for the Portuguese market through DREAMIA, our joint venture with the operator NOS.
We also operate and distribute a number of our brands in Africa, including Angola, Mozambique and Cape Verde.
Our pay-TV brands are distributed through the primary subscription platforms in each market.
What specific competencies AMCNISE has regarding AMC Networks International?
AMCNISE is a business unit of AMC Networks International, the global division of AMC Networks. We produce and distribute the brands mentioned above in Spain, Portugal and France.
AMCNISE has channels for all audiences. Could we have more details? What’s your offering?
At AMCNISE we strive to provide the most diverse offering of brands in the market. We offer film and series through our channels AMC, Canal Hollywood, SundanceTV, DARK, XTRM, Somos and Blast; documentaries and factual through Odisea, HISTORIA, Crime + Investigation and BLAZE; lifestyle through Canal Cocina, Canal Decasa and Casa e Cozinha; music through Sol Música and children’s content through Canal Panda and Biggs.
In the same way you have OTT platforms such as Odisea VR, Microcanales and Planet Horror. What’s your strategy in this area?
We’ve developed an original OTT strategy for our markets. For example, Planet Horror is a unique and customised horror movie service with exclusive never-before-seen content in Spain (both DTC and integrated in two of our affiliates, Vodafone TV and Orange TV). Microcanales is a free VOD sampler service that allows anybody to discover our channels, regardless if they are pay-TV subscribers or not, and Odisea VR is a free mobile app that offers virtual reality clips. In partnership with AMCNI Latin America, we’ve developed Cocina On, the largest on demand service specialized in Spanish-language cooking content. It was launched quite successfully both in Latin America as well as in the US with Sling, Amazon and other affiliates. We are also exploring new initiatives to continue to growing our offer.
AMC Selekt is another ambitious VOD development, as it includes content from all AMCNISE. Could you tell us more?
AMC Selekt is the most varied on-demand service in the Spanish market. It is currently integrated within Vodafone TV and Orange TV’s VOD offering, at no additional cost. The service includes more than 5,000 a la carte programs from AMCNISE’s thematic channels, in a wide variety of genres including films, series, documentaries, lifestyle programs, children’s content and music.
A hallmark of AMCNISE is your commitment to “in house production”. This implies a challenge, considering that you’re managing 24 TV channels. How do you undertake these productions? Do you unify your production resources? Does each televisión have its own production capabilities?
Original programming is highly relevant for our lifestyle brands such as Canal Cocina, Canal Decasa and Sol Música. These channels are programmed and managed by our in-house production department, and our content resonates very well with local audiences.
Does AMCNISE have its own production facilities?
For producing our programs, we rent TV studios or do outside recordings. We normally use our own production equipment, including cameras with 4K UHD capabilities. It is also significant that all of our local productions are currently done in 4K UHD.
All post productions are managed in-house. Our current facilities include six post production rooms, connected to a Quantum Xcellis high performance shared storage, which are equipped with Adobe Premier and After Effects software solutions. All post production rooms are equipped to work 4K UHD natively. Audio Post Production is held by 2 Avid Pro Tools equipped rooms.
Besides the mentioned post production rooms, our Madrid facility also has another 17 PPV rooms, capable of editing in HD.
Our facilities in Barcelona also have three PPV rooms using Avid Media Composer software solutions.
AMCNISE has been one of the first European companies to launch thematic channels with 4K resolutions. Can we expect further developments on your 4K offering in the near future?
We are evaluating technologies and solutions for improving the UHD experience with HDR (High Dynamic Range) and WGC (Wide Color Gamut).
How do you manage the playout of your televisions? What system do you use? Do you have agreements with broadcasting companies in each country?
Our main technical facilities are in Barcelona. From there, using Pebble Beach Marina automation, Dolphin integrated channel devices and Harmonic Spectrum servers (for UDH playout), we currently broadcast 24 different linear TV services with three of them in 4K UHD resolutions. Channels are encoded and distributed over IP, using Ateme Titan Live and Titan Mux solutions. SD versions of 14 Spanish TV services are also broadcast over Hispasat satellite.
Nonlinear TV is also key for our business and plays an important role in our broadcast operations. Besides linear TV services, our broadcast centre also manages and delivers high volumes of nonlinear assets, including videos, metadata files and artwork, associated to all types of requirements from operators with nonlinear services (Catch up TV, xVOD, etc.).
The core of our broadcast operations relies on Provys Broadcast Management System.
Besides programs rights, programming and scheduling management, Provys, which is fully integrated with the main core systems (including Pebble playout automation, Tedial Digital content management and BPM system, Telestream workflow management and transcoding farm or VSN artwork MAM) also controls and manages other fully automated processes associated to our core broadcast operations.
Contents are fundamental assets for AMCNISE. What platform do you use to manage them in your internal production? Is it the same for every station?
All assets, including videos, audios, subtitles, metadata and artwork, are registered and managed in Provys. To bring efficiency to Broadcast operations, Provys is fully integrated with the Tedial DCM (Digital Content Management) solution, allowing the implementation of fully automated processes associated to asset management and asset usage.
Video, audio and subtitle assets, associated to internal productions or received from external distributors, are all managed by the mentioned Tedial DCM (Digital Content Management) solution.
Artwork is stored and managed by a VSN MAM solution, which incorporates specific tools for dealing with the requirements associated to process, format, catalogue, store and deliver all images associated to EPG’s and nonlinear services. This system is also fully integrated with Provys.
Archive management is controlled by EcoDigital Diva solution. Near line storage is supported by a Quantum Xcellis SAN and deep archive makes usage of LTO 8 technology over a Quantum Scalar Tape Library.
What system is applied for the storage of your assets/content? Do you deploy a cloud or hybrid cloud system?
As already mentioned, we use Tedial DCM solution. Archive is managed by EcoDigital Diva solution.
We currently use LTO 8 digital tapes as core for deep archive content storage but hybrid solutions (using AWS, Microsoft, Google or other cloud platforms) are under evaluation.
We think hybrid solutions are the future and our systems are prepared to move in that direction.
What are the main technical challenges when adapting your channels to TV, DTT, IPTV and more? Do you commonly find different technical specifications between countries and/or platforms?
Over the last four years we invested in reengineering main core systems and broadcast processes. All broadcast core systems have been replaced, upgraded or reengineered to comply with the most challenging operational requirements.
In what concerns nonlinear services, each operator has its own requirements for video, metadata and artwork deliveries. On the other end, to keep broadcast operations as efficient as possible, we need to ensure fully automated delivery processes.
Our approach on having fully integrated core broadcast systems and fully trained operational and engineering teams, gave us the capability of managing all sorts of complex technical and business requirements and allows us to integrate with whatever platforms our customers are using.
This includes integrations with platforms that uses rest API’s, Web services or other types of integrations.
What’s AMCNISE’s technological future?
We will continue developing solutions that allow flexibility, resilience and security.
To stay competitive in our business, we need to anticipate the future, to be agile and be capable of giving answers to all customers and business requirements. In parallel, we need to continue improving operational efficiency at all levels, including broadcast operations.
The right technologies and integrations are fundamental tools to achieve those goals.
Fully integrated systems and the use of automated workflows, made available by BPM solutions, already are part of our reality.
We believe that nonlinear delivery platforms, cloud-based solutions, BI, machine learning, and AI will grow in relevance over the next few years and will bring competitive advantages to our operations and our business.
Our main goals are to continue the digital transformation started four years ago, to be agile and to be capable of using innovative technologies to create innovative services, capable of supporting demanding business initiatives and thought to improve operational efficiency.