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BT helps Channel 4 and ITV take Freeview content to the cloud

Multiplex broadcast consortium Digital 3&4 has ditched its legacy hardware for a software-defined networking setup that will revamp how it delivers Freeview content to viewers

ITV and Channel 4’s terrestrial Freeview channels are now running in the cloud as a result of a multimillion-pound contract that will make use of BT’s smart broadcast network.

Digital 3&4 (D3&4), the multiplex broadcasting joint venture set up by ITV and Channel 4, has hailed the deal as a “major step forward for the television industry” and will see BT switch on start-to-finish cloud processing for regionalised TV content across all of the pair’s Freeview channels.

Previously, the broadcasters relied on legacy hardware to host their content, but will now shift to relying on BT’s cloud-based smart broadcast network, known as Vena.

Faisal Mahomed, director of BT’s media and broadcast and portfolio businesses, said: “The service, built on Vena, is only the start of what’s possible on BT’s smart broadcast network – as we continue to drive digitisation, and to innovate solutions to support TV delivery in the UK and across the globe.”

The Vena setup consists of a software-defined media network that broadcasters can run their applications on top of, with D3&4 using it to combine multiple content streams from six playout centres into one before they are distributed regionally, across the UK, via two of BT’s datacentres. It also makes use of virtualised software video processing technology made by a company called Ateme.

“The benefits of processing digital terrestrial TV via the cloud include improving overall operational efficiency, cutting costs, lowering energy consumption, and enhancing flexibility for both production and distribution,” said the companies in a joint statement. “This is the first time that cloud processing of digital terrestrial TV channels has been completed on this scale.”

Mahomed said the project would pave the way for similar forms of innovation to take the rest of the TV industry by storm in the years to come.

“It will offer more possibilities for broadcasters to connect and interact with their audiences. We have seen remarkable innovation and collaboration across BT, D3&4 and our partner Ateme to get to this point,” he added.

Greg Bensberg, managing director of Digital 3&4, said the move to the cloud represented a “giant leap forward in delivering Freeview TV” to the 18 million viewers who tune into it regularly.

“This was a challenging project that required meticulous planning and execution, and we’re proud to have worked with a company that shares our passion for innovation and excellence,” Bensberg added. “We look forward to continuing our collaboration with BT and driving the future of broadcasting in the UK.”

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