West Pond and Shine Systems Team Up To Enhance Fan Experience At Franklin’s Gardens Stadium
Since 1880, the Northampton Saints have competed at the highest levels of England’s rugby union – most recently in Premiereship Rugby, the country’s top league. And for each of those nearly 140 years, they’ve played their matches at Franklin’s Gardens, a 15,000-seat stadium usually packed with passionate rugby fans.
As part of its commitment to improving the fan experience, Franklin’s Gardens has deployed dozens of TV screens in concourses and seating areas throughout the stadium. These TV screens were typically tuned to commercial TV channels, the content was limited to the existing subscription service, and there was no centralized control of what was displayed on any TV at any time. Stadium event planners were pursuing several improvements, but lacked the tools to implement them. Some of these ideas include:
- Playing video from files during matches and other events
- Displaying images on TVs to welcome guests, announce upcoming events, and more
- Controlling content on the display without changing channels at the display using a centralized content-management system
- Enhancing existing subscription TV content with real-time overlays to show match information, advertisements, and sponsor images
- General-purpose digital signage
Recognizing that these screens represented a significant opportunity, the stadium turned to shine Systems to better utilize these displays during matches and other events. This elite networking solutions provider designs, implements, and supports LAN and Internet-connected WAN systems, TCP/IP networks, server hardware solutions, and other network infrastructure.
Goals & Challenges:
- Increase fan engagement and enhance the guest experience during special events
- Deploy turnkey solution that creates two HD channels with integrated graphics and video
- Tie into stadium video/data sources: cameras, scoreboard, stats, social media
- No new wiring or per-TV media players
- Simplify local and remote manageability
Deployment: The FlexStream Smart Headend
To create a ubiquitous video presence throughout the stadium, shine Systems installed the West Pond Enterprises FlexStream MX-400ST (Stadium edition) smart headend solution. The MX-400ST includes four GigE network ports and four expansion modules that support a wide variety of input sources (including scoreboards, production-truck video, announcer audio, and TV feeds) and output via IP and RF coax transports via the integrated broadcast-quality multiplexer and multi-standard modulator.
- West Pond FlexStream MX-400ST
- Remotely accessible via FlexDM
- Creates two new multimedia TV channels from a variety of media sources
- Uses existing TV subscription service and devices
- Uses existing coax distribution infrastructure
- Performs video processing at headend
- Distributes media as TV channels to one, many, or all TVs.
West Pond bundles the MX-400ST with software specifically tailored to provide stadium operators the ability to deliver to existing TVs a complete range of modern, managed, multimedia content without requiring changes to the stadium infrastructure. The MX-400ST’s features include AV capture, encoding, and streaming; HTML video wrapping (digital signage), IPTV, and cable TV compatibility; in-house cable network monitoring; and more. The solution is simple enough to quickly meet current needs while retaining flexibility to meet the needs of the future.
According to Taylor, the MX-400ST is connected to the stadium’s in-house internet and is accessible from FlexDM, West Pond’s cloud-based remote-management service. FlexDM user accounts were created for both stadium and shine Systems personnel, enabling staff from both entities to manage the new TV channels.
“FlexDM allows us to efficiently manage the MX-400ST remotely and the FlexDM transcoding service simplifies the process of transcoding TV compatible video files,” Taylor said. “We found these features to be immediately useful.”
The Franklin’s Gardens MX-400ST leverages media content from a variety of sources including:
- AV capture ports (HDMI, in this case) connected to external Sky TV receivers.
- Four DVB-T tuners that can receive local terrestrial broadcasts.
- 32 GB of internal storage for signage content and streaming video files that can be included in a looping playlist or scheduled for playback at specific times.
- Networked sources such as cameras and other IPTV devices.
- Two HD encoders create HTML5 channel or dynamically enhance other video sources with HTML5 graphics and multimedia.
These sources are combined into a single broadcast TV transmission using the MX-400ST multiplexer. The resulting multi-program transport stream containing four or more HD channels, is modulated to DVB standards and output over RF to the stadium cable TV network. Each stadium TV is then tuned to one of these channels. At that point, the content on that TV can be remotely controlled through the MX-400ST management interface. The MX-400ST also receives new channels using the RF monitor input. The DVB-T monitor tuner simplifies the MX-400ST installation and continuously monitors the stadium DVB-T cable TV network. This enables remote personnel to monitor the content on the stadium cable TV network.
“We chose West Pond because it offers an integrated solution expressly designed for stadium usage,” Taylor said. “The installation was easy and straightforward, the 19-inch form factor fit our racks nicely, and all of our devices work with the system without any problem. We like the flexibility of HTML signage that’s integrated with live video – and that we can remotely access and manage it. In fact, the user interface and front panel are very easy to use. We can get a quick view of each channel, which is great for troubleshooting. It’s a very reliable product, and we haven’t experienced any failures.”
Creating Truly Great Content
Moving forward, Franklin’s Gardens anticipates further leveraging the MX-400ST’s ability to surround live video with HTML media, which will enable a potentially important stadium revenue opportunity. “We’ve only scratched the surface of what’s possible with HTML signage so far,” said Taylor. “We started quickly using a sample template and FlexDM transcoded video files. We look forward to applying our HTML5 web page development skills in the development of a spectacular Franklin’s Gardens signage presentation.
“The MX-400ST creates a very appealing screen experience that engages our fans and guests throughout the facility. And, of course, it provides a compelling ROI/payback for Franklin’s Gardens.”
Detailed Case Study
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