A+E Networks

A+E Networks is a global broadcaster with a portfolio of high quality factual and entertainment channels including History, Lifetime, Crime + Investigation and Blaze.

In addition to its New York headquarters, A+E Networks has offices in London and Singapore. Its International division oversees 50 channels around the world, reaching more than 300 million subscribers in over 150 countries and in 37 languages. A+E Networks UK is a joint venture with Sky.

The Challenge

As part of A+E Networks’ UK office relocation from Osterley to Hammersmith, the broadcaster wanted to overhaul its in-house operations facility in order to make it work more efficiently. Used by 35 operational staff and a further 25 post production users, the facility handles thousands of hours of incoming content from A+E Networks, New York as well as global distributors and production companies. It also creates on-air promos, interstitials and other channel collateral.

The revamp required an increase in the amount of automation, the installation of additional ‘preditor’ editing suites, a consolidation of storage and asset management capabilities and a move to a new editing platform. New IT and broadcast networks were also required. Some legacy equipment and systems would need to be incorporated in the new facility, with the whole setup then connected to third-party providers for playout, video-on-demand and language services.

7FiveFive were assigned to handle the broadcast and IT networks, as well as the post production, workflow and storage requirements. Gearhouse Broadcast’s expertise was called upon to deliver the baseband broadcast infrastructure.

A+E Networks UK Vice President of Operations, Matthew Westrup explained that with so many new requirements, the project was much more than a ‘lift and shift’:

AETN's Queen Caroline Street offices
“We wanted to take the best of what we thought worked well in Osterley and then change the bits that we felt had reached the end of their lifespan”
“Perhaps more importantly, the move was a physical manifestation of a wider technology strategy. We wanted to go to a more automated and data-driven environment where we had better control of our supply chain and where we could release the potential in both systems and staff and have better care of content with more craft, more creativity and less inefficiency.”

The Solution

Led by A+E Senior Vice President of Engineering and Technology Don Jarvis, 7FiveFive worked closely with A+E Networks in-house engineers to design and specify a new facility that was data-centric and made use of media orchestration and virtualisation.

Following 6 months of planning, the final implementation included a migration from Avid editing systems to Adobe Premiere Pro, the removal of legacy storage systems in favour of a single, 1 petabyte system from Pixit, the addition of a 10GigE network and the outsourcing of compliance and re-versioning work to a third party, TVT.

7FiveFive was responsible for transferring the Media Asset Management (MAM) setup, consolidating the storage systems, virtualising some existing systems and upgrading the network to 10GigE.

Tim Burton, 7FiveFive’s Managing Director explains:

“Any building move is challenging, however at A+E the operations uptime requirements made this move extra tricky. Various challenges were posed along the way, like late delivery of Telco links and a complex migration from Avid to Premiere, however, our close working relationship and mutual trust meant these obstacles were quickly navigated. We are very proud of the work at A&E and feel the systems in place are simple, elegant and effective.”

The physical move itself took place over a 12 week period with only 3 days of core system downtime. New systems were deployed and configured at the new site ahead of switch over, with a copy of the WIP (Work In Progress) data at each site kept in sync by PixIT. All moves and changes were rehearsed, and all new cabling systems were tested, so, come to the cutover weekend there were no surprises.

Where suitable, outgoing systems at the old site were reclaimed and reconfigured to provide a redundant layer to the new installation. Following a successful UAT (User Acceptance Testing) process the core move was complete.

The project has successfully reduced the amount of equipment required to run the facility. By migrating systems to a virtualised platform, removing legacy workflows and automating many processes, there has been a significant increase in efficiency for the operations and production departments.

Importantly, it was delivered on time and on budget.

Jan-Hendrik Hein, Director of Media Operations and Post Production Services summarises:

“7FiveFive are a key supplier for A+E Networks UK and have played a vital part in our recent office move. They ensure a seamless transition of the broadcast environment with minimal downtime and redesigned our company’s network infrastructure for our new office. Tim and his team are always on hand to advise on new technology and are brilliant solutions architects. The remote edit solution they have just deployed has huge potential and opens up many possibilities for operations to flex to the changing business needs.”

Key technology: PixIT (storage), VMware (virtualisation), MediaGenix What’s On (scheduling), SpectaLogic (LTO tape library), Telestream Vantage (transcoding and file workflow), IPV Curator (asset management), Cisco (network), Palo Alto (firewalling), Avid Pro Tools (audio), Adobe Premiere Pro (editing), Signiant (file transfer), VidCheck (file-based QC)