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Inside SES’ new full-service sports and events facility

TVBEurope talks to SES' Susanna Mandel-Mantello about the company's new facility at Stockley Park, as well as remote production and 8K

SES announced the opening of its new full-service sports and events facility at Stockley Park in September.

The new facility at London’s Stockley Park aims to help broadcasters as they move towards remote productions.

It offers content management services such as clipping and editing, subtitling, audio dubbing and titling, storing and archiving of content, as well as playout services for European customers and provides redundancy to SES’s Munich facility.

TVBEurope caught up with Susanna Mandel-Mantello, VP and head of sales, Sports and Events, SES Video to find out more.

What prompted the decision to open the new facility at Stockley Park?

Over the years, we’ve seen first-hand some of the challenges that our sports and events customers face, especially in terms of the complexity of sports production and transmission. By creating a dedicated sports facility in Europe, we’re now able to provide customers with a one-stop-shop that addresses all of their service requirements, including hybrid distribution (satellite, fibre and IP transmissions), graphics, studios, and commentary booths. London quickly emerged as the best place to host our facility since there are several sports agencies and connectivity options nearby.

Has the decision to open the facility been impacted by the pandemic at all?

Throughout the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve never hesitated about whether we should open the facility — there’s a customer need for it. But the construction of Stockley Park was briefly interrupted by the Covid-19 lockdown in the UK. We started construction on the facility in January and were about 90 per cent complete when lockdown began. At that point, no one was allowed to work on the facility for about 90 days. Despite the opening being slightly pushed back, we’re excited to announce that we officially launched our full-time services at Stockley Park on 1st September and are welcoming customers inside for business. Naturally, this wouldn’t be possible without the hard work and dedication of our SES team, including operations led by Rich Frantz, vice president, Global Services and Operations.

Can you tell us about any new equipment that is being employed at the facility?

The equipment we selected for Stockley Park was done so with great attention to detail. We wanted to ensure that the facility is future-proof, offering support for all formats and delivery methods. Currently our equipment includes: MediaKind and Ateme encoders and decoders, an Evertz EQX hybrid IP router, FOR-A 9100 frame rate converters, Nimbra and Cisco network connectivity, a DataMiner network management system, Novelsat Mods & Demods, and Multiformat Recorders (ASI, SDI, & IP). In 2021, we’ll be adding more equipment based on some of the service contracts we’ve signed with customers.

Who do you expect to use the facility?

We expect all of our sports and events customers will benefit from the Stockley Park facility, including broadcasters and sports organisations. The range of services that we provide dramatically simplifies sports production, allowing broadcasters to focus more on the quality of the content they are producing and less on the technical aspects.

How likely is it to be used during next summer’s major sporting events? There are some very big events that would have taken place this year, do you expect to use it to bring those feeds into the UK and Europe?

Stockley Park is set up to facilitate our customers’ broadcasting needs and will definitely enable the delivery of a wide range of major events. We will be delivering a major global sports event in Japan in 2021, and we are in discussions with other customers about additional premium sports events. 

The facility has been set up to deal with UHD 4K transmission, what about 8K?

Not many of our customers are currently producing 8K content, as industry-standard specifications are still being developed. However, given the nature of satellite and its ability to broadcast extremely high-quality content to millions of people, and the experience we have accumulated with being the first to support HD and then UHD, our teams are more than ready to support delivery of 8K content when the time comes. 

How will it help broadcasters move towards remote productions?

Some of our customers do not have access to a full remote production studio, and they now have an opportunity to address that need with SES’s Stockley Park facility. Depending on the level of remote production that’s required, we can support the aggregation of the cameras via fibre, IP, and satellite, or any combination of the three. In addition, we offer production facilities and assistance with global distribution.

Do you have any plans for more new facilities in the near future?

We are constantly reviewing growth and evaluating new ways that we can help address all of our customers’ needs. We’re not ready to make any announcements about future facilities yet but it’s not outside the realm of possibilities as our industry continues to evolve.