Broadcasting seems like a glamorous business. Major sporting events delivering memorable moments to billions of viewers, live reporting from the scenes of critical events, endless channels of content delivering everything from the ridiculous to the sublime.
But keeping that amazing content flowing requires the kind of diligent attention that, a generation ago, was reserved for NASA missions. Broadcast has a special set of requirements; large amounts of media traffic need to be moved around the world seamlessly and delivered at high quality to viewers – no matter where they are or what they’re watching on. Service disruption is not an option, particularly for big live events, where advertisers might be spending a million dollars a minute.
Telstra Broadcast Services (TBS) delivers content globally for the world’s biggest media companies, covering some of the world’s highest-profile events. The company’s Global Assurance Strategy is a robust system for maintaining top-quality broadcast, while meeting a high standard of customer service and driving operational efficiencies across the business.
Sonny Hinwood, TBS head of broadcast operations, is responsible for making sure Telstra customers are confident global audiences engage with their content. “Our frontline operational team speaks with broadcasters every day, dealing with issues on the spot. The expectation from customers is that there’s someone they can call, that has an intimate understanding of their service to address any problems immediately.”
A global network of trust
The global reach of Telstra Broadcast Services means business continuity is managed in-regions closer to customers. The TBS Global Assurance Strategy incorporates operational efficiencies with a distributed support platform, which includes distributed master control rooms (MCR), a distributed bookings capability and distributed field operations.
The power of distributed services means you don’t have to reproduce hardware-based services in every region you’re serving. We are dealing with a variety of customers across a wide geography which requires good coordination and alignment of processes and tools, including a single, shared scheduling system worldwide.
“You need to be singing from the same song sheet,” says Hinwood, “It’s critical we’re all working collaboratively for the good of the customer.”
Telstra’s Broadcast Operations Centre in Sydney was the first of its operational centres and has visibility over Telstra’s broadcast and media networks. The Centre is staffed 24/7, with a master control team of operators – including a senior operator – always on-site, with visibility of the entire media operation.
Telstra replicated the model in other regions such as Hong Kong, London and Pittsburgh, U.S., to ensure customer support is available when and where a production is taking place, with local service assurance just a phone call away. Hinwood observes that, while the tendency has been for most service providers to consolidate their customer support into central locations, many Telstra customers want them as a partner in-region, particularly in the U.S., Europe, and Asia.
Telstra’s London BOC has become one such deployment, offering critical in-region support for the company’s growing European business. The company also incorporated an MCR and engineering team in Hong Kong at the Stanley Teleport and while expanding its partnerships in the USA to manage in-region operations from bookings, to service assurance.
“This distributed workload model is really good for us,” says Hinwood. “It allows our team in Sydney to focus on more in-region events, rather than mitigating issues on the other side of the world.”
Our partners play an important role in our Service Assurance Strategy. In total, 17 partner MCRs are connected to Telstra’s Global Media Network (GMN), giving the company a real breadth and depth of customer support.
“It’s critical that we’re all working collaboratively for the good of the customer”
Always there, always ready
Business continuity is one area requiring the strictest attention. The pandemic has proven how essential the ability to reconfigure – or even relocate – your operations when disaster strikes. As climate change accelerates, solid business continuity will become increasingly vital.
“It’s interesting how many businesses have adapted and pivoted to remote access and automation in order to access their systems remotely,” adds Hinwood.
Telstra’s global reach means it has flexibility to leap to the rescue in the event of a customer emergency. “Disaster recovery is huge for us. Thanks to Telstra’s contingent of Satellite Earth Stations combined with our GMN connected partner teleports, we have satellite teleport capabilities that span the globe. I dare say there’s not a satellite in the world we can’t see at some point.”
Embracing an IT framework for broadcast has brought new and deeper ways for Telstra to assess customer issues. The team uses network management systems to distribute capability across all BOC’s in its global media network, employing a raft of dashboards and analytics tools to monitor and assess the subsea cable, local connectivity networks and Satellite teleports that comprise the Telstra network.
“We’re not looking at PIPs or decoding pictures as much anymore. We don’t always need to see exactly what a customer on the other side of the world is doing. Our job is to monitor the health of those services and provide a world class level of service assurance and service management.”
Beyond the impressive tech, however, the heart of the Global Assurance Strategy is the ability to be available to media customers and respond to any problems immediately.
“It’s day-to-day operational management, so when customers call us, we can react to challenges as quickly as possible,” says Hinwood. “Telstra has amazing technical teams that come up with integrated solutions for any broadcast and media requirement.”
This article was first published in the FEED Autumn 2021 Newsletter. Read the article here.