In March 2011, Comcast Media Center (CMC) completed construction of a new HD operations center for iN DEMAND at Comcast’s Dry Creek facility in Centennial, CO. In this new technical environment, CMC operations staff can manage program origination and satellite distribution of 42 cumulative HD and SD live sports channels and 12 entertainment channels. This programming is commonly known as PPV, NBA League Pass, NHL Center Ice, MLB Extra Innings and MLS Direct Kick. In addition to these services, CMC manages value-add features that include sports mosaics, live sports score presentation and sports replays, all of which are managed within the new multiformat operation.
CMC built the new operations environment to address two primary challenges for iN DEMAND. The first was that a rapid increase in the volume of iN DEMAND’s native HD programming had increased the features of its services beyond the practical capacity of the legacy environment. The technology employed in its legacy environment was nearing the end of its useful life and represented a performance risk to the environment. Second, iN DEMAND required certain operational efficiencies and versatility within the new operation to respond more effectively to market opportunities.
CMC provides iN DEMAND the full range of program origination services from two purpose-built control rooms — one for live sports and one for PPV — immediately adjacent to each other and close to the CMC central equipment room (CER). All terminal equipment and core systems are installed in the CER, while control and monitoring systems reside in the operational areas. This approach allows the operational environments to be tethered to the core systems but still have physical and operational versatility. All systems were constructed on modular consoles, mobile monitor walls and stands, committing very little to fixed walls or other permanent structures. The result is a clean, uncluttered operation with few scaling or reconfiguration limits.
Due to the volume and dynamic nature of iN DEMAND's programming, CMC needed to provide a versatile environment yet keep tight control over ongoing operational costs. Hence, CMC implemented a scalable operational staffing approach, establishing a universal command-and-control position with purpose-built operator positions (aka "pods") constructed on the periphery. This approach allows the operation to run with a single operator during scheduled, pre-recorded programming or as many as 12 to 16 operators during live games or events. For high-profile PPV events, CMC constructed three live-event isolation pods to ensure operators could dedicate their attention to the signal quality standards customers have come to expect from iN DEMAND.
Although the Live Sports and Pay-Per-View control rooms handle two distinct lines of iN DEMAND services, a single operator in the PPV room can manage both during less intense schedules such as overnight or sports replays between live programming shifts. To further ensure performance quality, the CMC deployed its award-winning Heads-Up Display technology to this operation and customized it further to suit the PPV display arrangement.