Cisco Systems’ Hsieh: Pac-12 Networks Taking “a Revolutionary Path”

One month away from making sports television history, Pac-12 Enterprises has its distribution backbone.

Cisco's David Hsieh believes that the Pac-12 Networks can "be a model for what existing networks and facilities will want to look like."

Cisco officially announced yesterday that Pac-12 Enterprises will be powered by key components of Cisco’s Videoscape Origination Suite, including Cisco’s IP-centric PowerVu video processing and distribution technology, and Digital Content Manager.

Cisco’s technologies and solutions will serve as the communications and distribution infrastructure connecting the entire Pac-12 footprint by providing the servers that support the delivery networks at all 12 universities, the data routing and switching capabilities in the Pac-12 Studios in San Francisco, and the encoding and transcoding equipment.

“I think what [commissioner] Larry Scott and the Pac-12 are doing is breathtaking, to say the least,” says David Hsieh, VP, Video and Emerging Technology at Cisco Systems. “Its super interesting to see that they have this opportunity that is literally a greenfield. How often do you get to see whole new video productions capabilities start from scratch?”

The PowerVu system allows the Pac-12 Networks to deliver MPEG4 HD content with surround-sound audio to both MPEG4 and MPEG2 CATV headends, while also managing dynamic programming changes, ad insertion, and providing a control and conditional access system for security.

“Its very exciting that they have been able to do things like focus on HD from day one and focus on an all-digital infrastructure from day one,” says Hseih of Pac-12 Networks, which will consist of one national and six regional channels. “In some respects I think they will be a model for what existing networks and facilities will want to look like, but [those networks] will have to take a more evolutionary path whereas the Pac-12 gets to take a revolutionary path.”

Pac-12 Enterprises ran its first signal test on Monday, delivering a live feed from its San Francisco headquarters to Comcast Media Center in Denver to each of its affiliates through Cisco’s PowerVu system.

In preparing for a launch, Hseih says that Cisco has never worked with a client working on such a grand scale at such a high speed.

“I think if their model proves to be successful, it opens the door to other conferences,” he says. “Say you were a fan of Akron women’s tennis, you would never be able to see that broadcast ever, anywhere, under any circumstances. Now, with a model like this, any conference can do this. I think that’s very exciting to open up a much broader range of sports and to be able to reach fans of all different types.”

The networks are set to launch on Aug. 15 and are slated to televise 850 live sporting events in the first academic year alone. That total includes 35 football games and more than 130 men’s basketball games.

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