In 2020, Australian pay television company Foxtel, a cable and direct broadcast satellite television and IPTV streaming services operator, started a long-term project to exit its ageing television centre facility in the north of Sydney. The plan involved migrating their entire technology platform from across two sites in Sydney to an all-IP platform encompassing video routing, satellite, OTT and other functions.
A core part of the new platform was multiviewing and monitoring for all of their IP sources across multiple sites. Foxtel Head of Broadcast Engineering and Projects, Matthew Carter, said, “As well as viewing the images on monitors, we wanted to access a real time probe of the signals across the full video workflow, giving an end-to-end view of across all formats and encoding type.”
All Software Multiviewing and Monitoring
After spending about 12 months trialling IP monitoring equipment from different vendors with their integrator Magna Systems & Engineering, Foxtel chose a TAG all-software system that would cover all of these requirements. Currently in use monitoring over 2,000 sources across multiple sites, it handles diverse IP signal types including compressed and uncompressed HD and UHD, OTT - HLS, CMAF and DASH including DRM and NDI. These signals, in any combination, can be monitored on just one server.
TAG software runs entirely on COTS hardware. Foxtel opted for DELL R650 servers with dual ConnectX6 200GE cards, capable of monitoring up to 128 uncompressed SMPTE ST2110 HD inputs with -7 seamless switching protection, switching over to a backup source if errors are detected or the signal is lost. Matthew commented that, as a software-based system, TAG IP monitoring gives Foxtel an edge by allowing them to avoid dedicated hardware and take advantage of improvements in OTS hardware over time.
Matthew also said, “We specifically purchased the TAG software for its ability to decode and monitor across multiple formats. It is still among the few tools that can do this within the same appliance at scale. Magna worked with my team to configure a system that would suit our needs, and stayed on hand along the way to help with any issues and to work with TAG on any request we have had.”
Foxtel’s TAG IP monitoring system is used across the entire platform, from the ingest of the signal from playout or third parties to pre-compression and post compression. It is also used across multiple departments including MCR, Presentation and Foxtel’s Service Assurance teams across two sites under one control environment.
TAG’s MCS controller management dashboard
“With the introduction of TAG’s MCS controller management, control of the platform has become much simpler,” said Matthew. “At the beginning of the journey this functionality wasn’t even available to customers yet, but by working with TAG and Magna, we have actually helped shape the product and continue to do so now.”
The MCS (Media Control System) scales almost infinitely and enables tight integration of media monitoring with open source software, DevOps tools and AI / ML to gain insight into performance. All of the user’s individual TAG MCM (Multi-Channel Monitoring) instances are fully configured, controlled and monitored for operational health using a centralised API and UI. Real-time data can be collected across all MCMs and used immediately with standard IT visualization tools.
An example of how Foxtel uses the TAG system is monitoring their live event-based OTT streams, which consumers view in real time. Live content chunks are typically minimized to shorten the delay between the actual event and the remote viewing. Because players cannot cache as far ahead as when streaming VOD content, the bit rates also need to be tuned according to actual network performance.
Foxtel Head of Broadcast Engineering and Projects, Matthew Carter
Using TAG’s open API, Foxtel have integrated live OTT monitoring into their resource scheduling platform to supply operators with verification of customer delivery. Foxtel’s automation system, in turn, then supplies TAG with the necessary CDN details associated with an event to start decoding and probing. This now means that the cumbersome workflows of checking a physical device for the event start are no longer required – monitoring of the stream is now continuous from start to finish.
VP Sales at TAG Video Systems, Adi Itzhaki, said, "Beyond transitioning to all IP, Foxtel needed to monitor multiple workflows and formats, scaling across multiple sites. TAG's MCM (Multi Channel Monitoring) is a good match for these requirements, with deep real-time monitoring across the entire chain, and the MCS control and analysis layer. Working with TAG and Magna, Foxtel now has a single point view of their workflow, while staying agile and aligning delivery to their evolving business requirements.” www.magnasys.tv