A+E Networks UK enhanced distribution using a playout solution built by AWS Partner Amagi
Media network A+E Networks UK (A+E UK) needed to find a new playout solution when its previous service provider suddenly went out of business. Unless it found one within 3 months, A+E wouldn’t be able to broadcast its TV and streaming channels—including HISTORY, Crime+Investigation, Lifetime, and BLAZE—to 60 million homes across 100 countries.
Finding a new solution in such a short time frame wouldn’t be simple. Migrating broadcast operations typically takes 6–9 months, and A+E UK estimated that selecting a cloud provider and starting the migration would take 18–24 months.
A+E UK bypassed that process by migrating to a solution on Amazon Web Services (AWS) built by AWS Partner Amagi. Amagi, a media technology and services company, builds live and on-demand video infrastructure for TV and over-the-top media—a media service offered to viewers through the internet. “We told A+E UK we could give it a business continuity solution that’s relatively asset light because we are a cloud-based solution provider and because everything will be on AWS,” says K. A. Srinivasan, cofounder of Amagi.
Taking advantage of AWS, Amagi built A+E UK a cost-effective playout solution and migrated 22 TV channels from A+E UK’s on-premises system in just 1 month.
“This partnership with Amagi is an important milestone in our goal to create an effective, scalable, and future-facing operation in the cloud that is well positioned in our supply chain,” said Matt Westrup, vice president of technology and operations at A+E Networks EMEA, which serves the Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) region. “It provides us greater flexibility to manage our evolving EMEA portfolio. With the level of visibility, agility, and control that the cloud offers, we can now manage our broadcast operations in EMEA remotely. This has been a huge advantage for us especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Migrating to a playout solution on AWS in 1 month
Amagi began the first phase of creating a playout solution for A+E UK by integrating A+E UK’s multiple media pipelines, setting up media ingestion workflows, and then establishing and testing playout and internet-based channel delivery.
In 1 month, Amagi had created a solution that facilitated business continuity for A+E UK and had migrated 22 A+E UK channels equating to over 50,000 hours of content. That content is stored in Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), an object storage service that offers industry-leading scalability, data availability, security, and performance. “The migration to AWS was done in 30 days, which is a record time for any major broadcaster to migrate its entire playout solution,” says Srinivasan. The migration was smooth, with no impact to A+E UK’s customer experience.
Amagi accomplished that feat using Amagi CLOUDPORT, its broadcast-grade cloud playout system for TV and over-the-top media built on AWS. Because Amagi CLOUDPORT is on AWS, there’s no lead time, whereas A+E UK would have had to wait months to receive and configure hardware for an on-premises playout solution. Amagi spins up instances from Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), a web service that provides secure, resizable compute capacity in the cloud, as A+E UK needs them.
To process assets in parallel, Amagi CLOUDPORT uses AWS Batch, which dynamically provisions the optimal quantity and type of compute resources based on the volume and specific resource requirements of the batch jobs submitted. Amagi CLOUDPORT also uses Amazon EC2 Spot Instances, which let users take advantage of unused Amazon EC2 capacity on AWS. Additionally, the solution uses AWS Lambda, a serverless, event-driven compute service that lets users run code without provisioning or managing servers, using only the compute resources needed.
Using AWS Elemental MediaConnect, a high-quality transport service for live video, Amagi CLOUDPORT simplifies the distribution of A+E UK’s TV channels to more than 360 operators broadcasting throughout the EMEA region. A+E UK also uses MediaConnect to distribute live streams.
Some A+E UK TV channels are distributed using a broadcaster running on Amazon EC2. Amagi also has permanent headends in many collocation data centers. These headends are connected using AWS Direct Connect, a cloud service that links a business’s network directly to AWS. Many of the A+E UK channels are delivered using cross connects to operators through these Amagi headends.
Now A+E UK is better able to meet its service-level agreements with customers. “On AWS, we took A+E UK’s media and playlists from touch-and-feel hardware, put them on a virtual environment, and then brought them back to the physical world of cable and satellite, which is key for distribution,” says Srinivasan. “And we have the ability to distribute with much higher service-level agreements than a traditional playout can.”
Finding high scalability, performance, and agility on AWS
Using the Amagi solution, A+E UK has high visibility and transparency into broadcasting operations and can resolve issues rapidly. For example, Amagi automated the formerly manual validation process of matching media assets and playlists. “We set up similar interfaces, but the beauty of our system on AWS is that everything is accessible by web browser,” says Srinivasan. “A+E UK can log in on a web browser without waiting for its service provider, so it doesn’t have to wait to solve incompatibilities between a playlist and the media asset. It sees issues within minutes and solves them by itself more often than not.”
The flexibility and scalability of AWS have led to cost savings for A+E UK because both playout and internet-based channel delivery can be spun down when they’re not in use. When the COVID-19 pandemic impacted advertising revenues for all businesses globally, Amagi adjusted the playout system to lower costs for A+E UK. The media network was also able to manage operations remotely, with full visibility and control, when its employees worked from home.
Delivering business continuity in uncertain times
By deploying a playout system on AWS in 1 month, A+E UK and Amagi have shown that major broadcasters can virtualize their entire broadcast operations within a short time, even with large operations and complex workflows. “We came at a very uncertain time for A+E UK, and we delivered a quick turnaround,” says Srinivasan. “Its customer services were not impacted, and there was a smooth transition. A+E UK is even more confident in the services and capabilities of Amagi.”
Amagi brings simplicity, advanced automation, & transparency to the entire broadcast operation, be it for traditional TV or next-gen multiscreen platforms. Amagi has deployments in over 40 countries, enabling TV networks to launch, operate, & monetize channels anywhere in the world.