BT Broadcast & Media

Boosting live coverage with cutting-edge technologies

In the fast-paced world of broadcast media, BT Broadcast & Media stands as a beacon of innovation and versatility, navigating the complex terrain of live event coverage with remarkable dexterity. From the electric atmosphere of top-tier football matches to the grandeur of international sporting events like the Commonwealth Games and UEFA Champions League Finals, BT has seamlessly integrated cutting-edge technology with traditional broadcast infrastructure, bringing unparalleled viewing experiences to audiences worldwide. Their recent undertakings, including coverage of significant cultural moments such as the King’s Coronation and the Queen’s Funeral, further demonstrate their capacity to handle a diverse array of events with finesse and sensitivity.

Delving deeper into the technological prowess behind the scenes, BT’s adeptness in remote production solutions emerges as a game-changer in the industry. The company’s strategic approach, particularly during the challenges posed by the confinement, underscores their commitment to innovation, sustainability, and quality. By deploying solutions like the Project Restart, BT not only facilitated the return of the English Premier League to screens across the UK but also set a new standard for remote production, balancing technical excellence with social responsibility.

Looking ahead, BT’s forward-thinking strategies, especially in the realm of 5G private network solutions, are poised to redefine the boundaries of broadcast and media production. As the industry gears up for landmark events like the 2024 European Championships and the Paris Olympics, BT’s involvement promises to bring about a new era of connectivity, agility, and quality in live broadcasting. Their relentless pursuit of excellence, coupled with a keen eye on emerging technologies such as AI and cloud integration, positions BT Broadcast & Media at the forefront of a revolution that is set to transform how we consume live content, making it more immersive, accessible, and engaging than ever before. With this interview, TM Broadcast International takes its readers to the future of Remote Production, together with Dom Wrona, Head of Portfolio & GTM in BT Media and Broadcast.

 

What major sporting events has BT M&B covered / produced recently?

We offer a diverse product set to support a wide range of events for customers. From our fixed infrastructure like our intelligent media platform, Vena, accommodating broadcasters such as BBC and ITV, to our market leading Outside Broadcast portfolio, some of the highlight events have included:

  • Top tier football in the UK: English Premier League, Scottish Premierships and UEFA European football matches held in the UK
  • Rugby and Horseracing, including Royal Ascot, the Six Nations Championship and Premiership Rugby
  • Commonwealth Games and UEFA Champions League Finals.
  • In addition to sports, we have also covered major events such as the King’s Coronation and the Queen’s Funeral, as well as events including the World’s First AI Safety Summit at Bletchley Park.

 

How does BT Media and Broadcast’s remote production equipment integrate with existing broadcast infrastructures of clients?

We understand that when you operate with such a wide customer base, there will be different ways of operating and very different requirements. We have to be able to accommodate customers that, for example, only want EVS control to be remote versus a customer that wants the entire event produced from a centralised location. When we offer our solutions, we tend to do so end to end. This not only allows us to offer greater reliability, but also mitigates any issues we could have with integration. When we are required to integrate our products and services with existing broadcast infrastructure, we collaborate very closely and apply our strict testing protocols to ensure all aspects of the workflow meet the high standards that both ourselves and our customers would expect.

 

What challenges have you encountered in deploying remote production solutions, and how have you addressed them?

In my view you can compartmentalise those challenges into two groups:

  1. Technical challenges; such as latency, quality and reliability.
  2. Social challenges; such as sustainability, work-life balance and inclusivity.

We deployed our Project Restart remote production solution during the Covid-19 pandemic in remarkable speed in order to accommodate all broadcasters in the UK to bring the English Premier League back to the screens at home. This was just the start of our journey and for many of our customers and partners.

Technical challenges were addressed via our highly talented teams, designing a solution with the right infrastructure to keep risk to a minimum, but also to give our customers the flexibility they needed – whether that’s the vendor we have picked to deploy a solution, bandwidth capacity or compression levels. In terms of the social aspects, those tend to be multifaceted. At first, the obvious assumption was that remote production reduces carbon footprint – but since then there has been interesting debate about how this can be dependent on how the solution is deployed. We believe that remote production creates a far more inclusive work environment for employees that may not be able to travel each weekend up and down the country, but on the flipside there is also a large pool of individuals who absolutely love that aspect of the job and therefore finding the right balance is critical. And we trust our customers/partners to do so – we want to give them that choice and flexibility.

 

Can you describe the specific features and capabilities of your 5G private network solutions tailored for the broadcast and media industry?

  • We can support large-scale productions outside of the studio.
  • Our 5G Rapid Response Vehicle (RRV) offers reliability, an uncontended network with bespoke coverage, ensuring throughput for image acquisition even in crowds.
  • Fast, low latency connectivity enabling improved interactivity between studio and field, facilitating natural conversation.
  • Production quality – low latency and high bandwidth allows studio level production features such as superimposed elements.
  • Immediate deployment with fast set-up. Our RRV is a 4×4.
  • A range of backhaul offerings including GEO Satellite, Fibre, LEO, and Microwave.
  • It uses licenced spectrum N77 to ensure content is not affected by the consumer 5G network.
  • Promotes Agility and Flexibility.
  • Decreased deployment of staff to site, lower resource dependency which can lead to lower associated costs.
  • A 5G private network can be connected directly into backhaul connectivity, meaning there can be highly limited production presence on site and camera feeds can be sent directly back to a ROC, with return vision, communications, tally and camera control being enabled too.

 

In 2024, which major sports tournaments or competitions will be most important or have the greatest impact on the industry?

We are very fortunate in 2024 where the European Championships and Olympics are happening during the same summer. Very often the risk appetite to implement new technology at events of this size is minimal. However, there always is an aspect of the production, contribution or distribution where an innovative solution is deployed. I believe that we will yet again see something special at the Olympics and/or Euros. We will be involved with both…

 

How will BT M&B be involved in the upcoming Paris Olympics?

We will be providing an end-to-end managed solution guaranteeing content delivery back to the UK and for onward distribution. We will be working on behalf of a major UK broadcaster, with presence on site and deployment of our Outside Broadcast capabilities.

 

Looking towards the future, what emerging technologies or trends do you see playing a significant role in broadcast and media production, and how is BT Media & Broadcast preparing to integrate them into your solutions?

There are some obvious choices such as Cloud integration and how we make the most from it; 5G and ability to network slice in order to fulfil the full potential of the capability; but also the hot buzz word of AI – it will be interesting to see how that develops and what role it can play in our sector.

What is critical for us at BT is that we continue to innovate at the epicentre of the eco system. Aggregating the latest technology, implementing it, driving internal and external innovation for the benefit of our customers. We have a long history of world firsts and innovation and the driving ambition is always to create solutions and services for our customers that will help them become faster, better and more efficient.

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