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ESPN's MPEG-4 switch provides a path to 1080p60 broadcasts

ESPN's MPEG-4 switch provides a path to 1080p60 broadcasts
Richard Lawler
Richard Lawler|@Rjcc|June 8, 2011 3:54 PM
A side effect of ESPN's transition to MPEG-4 exclusivity is that the new Motorola equipment it's relying on (and passing out to affiliates) supports distribution of 3D signals and 1080p60 broadcasts. Executive VP of Technology for ESPN and friend to Engadget Chuck Pagano says this allows the network to future proof, extending on work already done when it built its latest studio in Los Angeles for 1080p60 from the ground up two years ago. Of course, we're still waiting for someone to go all BBC and flip the switch that brings those extra pixels home, but for now we just have to wait for each piece of the chain to be ready for that to happen.

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ESPN to Utilize Motorola Mobility's 1080p60 HD Video Distribution Solution

Innovative system uses MPEG-4 to make room for more HD services and provides a practical migration path to 1080p60 HD and 3D TV programming

June 08, 2011

CHICAGO, Ill.– June 08, 2011 – Motorola Mobility, Inc. (NYSE: MMI) today announced ESPN will use Motorola's video distribution solution to transition all programming for ESPN and ESPN-2 networks to an MPEG-4 HD format, freeing up precious bandwidth to increase the number of HD services offered. Motorola's solution also positions ESPN to offer both 1080p60 HD and 3D TV programming when service providers are ready for it.

"Motorola's MPEG-4 HD distribution system will allow us to consolidate our distribution while efficiently delivering the highest quality 1080p60 HD sports programming," said Chuck Pagano, executive vice president, technology, ESPN. "This enables us to future proof for delivery of services as well as providing our affiliates the option of lower resolution services to support existing video infrastructure systems."

Motorola's solution is comprised of the SE-6601A MPEG-4 encoder that preserves exceptional video quality while decreasing bandwidth consumption, the DSR-6100 integrated receiver/decoder (IRD) that uses MPEG-4 to MPEG-2 transcoding to bridge to legacy operator services, and a highly flexible software control system. As both ESPN and ESPN-2 transition to all MPEG-4 HD over the next several years, Motorola's system will distribute full resolution HD programming while simultaneously providing legacy MPEG-2 HD and SD services to ESPN affiliate operators, all without requiring additional satellite bandwidth.

Moreover, Motorola's modular uplink and control system, coupled with the DSR-6100 IRD, enables agile management of ESPN's content in order to deliver HD programming that is more relevant to consumers in a particular region.

"ESPN's early commitment to all MPEG-4 HD distribution is a pioneering step toward the realization of a full resolution 2D or 3D video delivery ecosystem," noted Joe Cozzolino, senior vice president and general manager, Network Infrastructure, Motorola Mobility. "This is a revolutionary yet practical approach for ESPN to maintain support for existing cable delivery systems while enabling premium 1080p60 HD or 3D TV consumer experiences in the home."

As part of the migration, all ESPN and ESPN-2 programming will be processed with Motorola's SE-6601A high definition MPEG-4 AVC encoder capable of 1080p60 and 3D encoding. Designed specifically for markets requiring high quality MPEG-4 compression of real-time content, the SE-6601A receives video content and converts it to the MPEG-4 format for distribution via satellite to ESPN's affiliates. At the downlink sites, the content will be received and processed with Motorola's DSR-6100, which receives MPEG-4 720p60 or 1080p60 video (including 3D), and then transcodes to MPEG-2 HD, SD and/or analog NTSC to support whatever video infrastructure the service provider has in place. The DSR-6100 uses the in-band active format descriptor (AFD) to translate input HD services to an appropriate standard definition (SD) service with proper aspect ratio, allowing for migration to HD-only distribution strategies.

About ESPN Technology:
ESPN Technology develops the ideas and applications that bring the fan closer to the game with new, innovative production enhancements. ESPN's technology team designed and supports two of the most technologically-advanced production centers in the world, the Digital Center in Bristol, Conn. and the Los Angeles Production Center which is the first 1080p capable production facility. In addition, the Emerging Technology Group has developed many on-air advancements over the past 30 years, including ESPN 3D, virtual graphics applications, Huck-O-Meter, and the Emmy-winning EA Virtual Playbook.
About Motorola Mobility
Motorola Mobility, Inc. (NYSE:MMI) fuses innovative technology with human insights to create experiences that simplify, connect and enrich people's lives. Our portfolio includes converged mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets; wireless accessories; end-to-end video and data delivery; and management solutions, including set-tops and data-access devices. For more information, visit motorola.com/mobility.