Liberty Sports Group Moves To MPEG-4 HD With Cisco

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Liberty Sports Group is now distributing a single digital feed, in high-definition format, for each of its three regional sports networks using Cisco Systems' MPEG-4 Advanced Video Coding and transcoding platform.

The three RSNs -- FSN Northwest, FSN Pittsburgh and FSN Rocky Mountain (which includes subregional service FSN Utah) -- launched HD networks in February in MPEG-4 format. About a month ago Liberty Sports Group went to a single HD feed that is downconverted by affiliates to SD for distribution.

Liberty Sports Group deployed more than 700 Cisco receivers to affiliates including Comcast, DirecTV and Dish Network. The Cisco Advanced Receiver Transcoders let affiliates convert the incoming video to MPEG-2 HD, MPEG-2 SD or analog as needed.

The three RSNs are distributed to more than 8.5 million viewers across 17 U.S. states with sports programming from 23 professional and collegiate teams.

The single MPEG-4 AVC HD video stream is created by a Cisco encoder. The newer format provides up to double the bandwidth efficiencies of the MPEG-2 format, and DVB-S2 forward-error correction and modulation also help improve satellite bandwidth use.

"Like Cisco, we take a long-term view when it comes to video distribution architecture," Liberty Sports Group chief technology officer Brian McHale said in a statement. "The ability to gain as much as a 50% improvement in bandwidth utilization by deploying a proven encoding and transcoding platform gives us significant operational benefits, as well as the flexibility we want for our future."