In 2020 Foxtel started a project to exit the ageing television centre facility at Macquarie Park. The plan involved migrating their entire technology platform across two sites in Sydney to an all-IP platform encompassing video routing, satellite, OTT and more. After more than 12 months of market research, testing and trialling various vendor IP monitoring solutions, Foxtel chose a TAG solution for all their IP monitoring requirements. This TAG monitoring solution, supplied by Magna Systems & Engineering, is the largest solution of its kind in the southern hemisphere and in the top ten solutions of its kind globally.
As Foxtel Head of Broadcast Engineering and Projects, Matthew Carter, explained, “We wanted to be able to not only view pictures on monitors but provide a real time probe of those signals across the full workflow to provide a full end-to-end view of the video workflow across all formats and encoding type. The TAG solution does all of this and more.”
Starting with an RFI in 2020, progressing to an extensive RFP in 2021 and followed by a POC, the TAG solution ticked all the boxes for Foxtel’s new multiviewing and monitoring for all of their IP sources across multiple sites.
The TAG solution is now monitoring over 2000 sources across multiple sites with all types of IP signals including uncompressed HD and UHD, compressed HD and UHD, OTT – HLS, CMAF and DASH including DRM, NDI and any combination of these signals can be monitored on just one server. TAG is also a software solution running entirely on COTS hardware.
When the RFP was concluded Foxtel also opted for the latest DELL R650 server with dual ConnectX6 200GE cards. Each server is capable of monitoring up to 128 uncompressed SMPTE ST2110 HD inputs with -7 seamless switching protection.
Carter continued, “We specifically purchased the TAG IP monitoring solution for its ability to decode and monitor across multi-formats. It is still the only tool out there that can do this within the same appliance at scale. We were also very impressed with Magna who supported us from start to finish. They understood our requirements and worked closely with my team to provide the solution that fitted our needs. Magna have been on hand all along the way to help with any issues and to work with TAG on any request we have had.”
The new TAG IP solution is used across the entire Foxtel platform, from the ingest of the signal from playout or third parties, 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.
Carter continued, “With the introduction of the MCS controller management, control of the TAG platform has become much simpler. At the beginning of the journey this tool wasn’t even a reality to the customer but working closely alongside TAG and Magna we have helped shape the product and continue to do so.”
One example of how Foxtel uses the TAG solution comes in the form of the monitoring of its event-based OTT streams. Using the fully open API Foxtel has integrated this into its resource scheduling platform to provide 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 once cumbersome workflows of checking a physical device for the event start are no longer required as there is now a continued monitoring of the stream from start to finish.
VP Sales at TAG Video Systems, Adi Itzhaki, said, “When Foxtel and Magna approached TAG with this ambitious and forward-looking project, they presented a very clear challenge. Beyond transitioning to all IP, Foxtel needed to monitor multiple workflows and formats across multiple sites at high scale. TAG’s MCM is the perfect fit for these requirements with deep realtime monitoring across the entire chain along with the MCS control and analysis layer. With TAG and Magna, Foxtel managed to get a single point view of their workflow, while staying agile and aligning delivery to their evolving business requirements.”
Matthew Carter concluded, “TAG are the market leaders in the IP monitoring space. There is very little out there that can do what the TAG does on the same hardware, such as decoding multiformat streams all on one appliance. Using the TAG IP solution gives Foxtel an edge as it is a software-based solution so we can move away from dedicated hardware that become a technical debt over time. As improvements are made in OTS hardware Foxtel, TAG and Magna will move with them. The other edge we have is down to our long working relationship with Magna and in turn, Magna’s excellent relationship with TAG. It is these key relationships that enables us to work so closely with them and makes this a true partnership.”