To meet rising demand for high-definition capable facilities, GlobeCast America has been investing heavily in upgrading its U.S. infrastructure for transmission and playout of HD signals. As part of that process, it has improved its global fiber network and has nearly completed the upgrade of its Culver City, Calif., operations.
“With the growth of HD and the demand for more HD content, we have been investing the capital to dramatically increase our capability to uplink, downlink, convert, encode, playback and transport HD across all formats,” said GlobeCast America CEO Mary Frost.
Much of the demand for HD-capable transport and facilities is being driven by clients that want to transmit signals within the United States, Frost said. But the company is also seeing increased demand from clients who want to export HD signals from the U.S. to Europe and Asia and, to a lesser extent, import HD signals into the U.S.
Frost also noted an increased demand for high-definition capacity from religious broadcasters and the enterprise sector, particularly the medical field.
GlobeCast is not a newcomer to the HD game. David Szelag, vice president of technical operations, said the content management and delivery company has been handling HD signals in the U.S. for the syndication and sports markets for some time. This fall will mark GlobeCast’s fourth year of delivering syndicated content in high-def.
In 2007, the company began to prepare for the expansion of its HD capacity by upgrading its global fiber infrastructure. That fiber network will allow it to deliver HD content to the company’s 12 teleports on five continents.
The next step was the HD upgrade of its Culver City master control and teleport, which Szelag called the company’s “primary technical facility in the U.S.”
“We distribute WorldTV [subscription-based ethnic programming packages] out of there” and it is the base for many permanent and occasional use services, he added. “It is really our gateway to Asia and Europe, which is why we started there.”
The company had initially planned to complete that process over a six to nine month period in 2008, but one of its customers, World Wrestling Entertainment, moved up the launch of its HD offering to January 2008. Because of that accelerated timetable, the Culver City facility upgrade is near completion, with the exception of a few enhancements to their audio capabilities, according to Szelag.
Vendors involved in that upgrade included Snell & Wilcox, which provided its Alchemist Ph.CTM HD standards converter with motion control, Omneon Video Networks, which provided servers; digital routers from Utah Scientific; Tandberg Television, which supplied a variety of MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 encoders and integrated receiver/decoders (IRDs); and monitoring and other equipment from Harris Broadcast Communications.
Within the next 45 to 60 days, GlobeCast is expecting to receive IRDs from Scientific Atlanta to ensure one of its clients can begin sending HD signals this fall.
As a result of the upgrades, GlobeCast can now handle such advanced modulation standards as DVB-S2, which maximizes satellite capacity and MPEG-4 and MPEG-2 compression.
To further expand its HD capabilities, GlobeCast is also looking “to partner with companies who have HD trucks and HD studios and post production capabilities,” Frost said. “Partnerships can help all of us move into the HD world, which is a very expensive undertaking.”
The company is also looking to upgrade its Sunrise, Fla., facility, which would make all of its U.S. operations fully HD-compatible, said Marcelo Buitrago, a sales solutions engineer at the company. “We have a master control playout facility at Sunrise and the plan is to upgrade that facility to HD playout as well.”
But timing for the Sunrise upgrade has yet to be determined. “It will be more project driven,” and dependent on when clients need the HD capability, Buitrago said. “We started with Culver City because that is our main facility and our main path to the outside world.”
Because most of its international HD traffic is with Europe, Buitrago said the company “implemented Europe first. Asia will be second.” Later, it will expand HD links to Latin America.
Along with its extensive domestic business, GlobeCast, which is owned by France Telecom, is a major player in transporting broadcast signals in and out of the United States, and is a major provider of ethnic channels in the U.S. and Europe.
But Frost said that market has not yet embraced HD content and that it may take some time before international channels begin importing HD content to U.S. subscribers.
U.S. subscribers to the WorldTV packages from Europe and Asia “don’t seem to need or demand it,” she said. “They are just happy to have some overseas feeds and we haven’t seen any sense that they are clamoring to upgrade to HD.”
Frost expects some of the first international content in HD to reach U.S. consumers will likely be premium sports networks. Networks from Japan, Mexico and Brazil that have already begun to expand their HD content might also be early movers, she said, adding, “Some other regions like Eastern Europe will take a long time.”