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Sky Italia partners with Viaccess-Orca, Harmonic, VideoStitch for VR

At the 2016 NAB Show, Viaccess-Orca, a global player in the protection and enhancement of content services; Harmonic, an expert in video delivery infrastructure; and VideoStitch, will showcase their best-of-breed virtual reality (VR) solution that is currently being tested by pay-TV operator Sky Italia to broadcast a basketball game. The trial, powered by end-to-end VR technology from Viaccess-Orca, Harmonic, and VideoStitch, is designed to provide Sky Italia viewers with an immersive, engaging, and personalised television viewing experience.

“Creating fan engagement around major sports events represents a huge potential for us. We’re experimenting with the end-to-end VR technology to capitalize on brand recognition and satisfy increasing viewer demand for more immersive content,” said Massimo Bertolotti, Head of Innovation and Engineering at Sky Italia. “The VR ecosystem offered by Viaccess-Orca, Harmonic, and VideoStitch is flexible, enabling us to streamline installation and our overall workflow without compromising the video experience. We also particularly like the fact that by partnering with well-known premium content management and distribution specialists, we are in the best position to offer quality experiences.”

Specifically adapted to sports content distribution, with an emphasis on boosting fan engagement, the VR solution trialed by Sky Italia also benefits from compatibility with industry standards. The satellite operator has the flexibility to leverage existing investments in equipment and lower its CAPEX. The VR solution offered by Viaccess-Orca and its partners is pre-integrated, which allows content owners and pay-TV operators, such as Sky Italia, to quickly deploy VR services and gain a competitive edge in the marketplace.

Harmonic provided Sky Italia with essential video delivery infrastructure components, including the ProMedia Xpress WFS multiscreen transcoder and packager for Ultra HD transcoding in MP4 and MPEG-DASH formats, as well as the ProMedia X Origin media server. These have been integrated with VideoStitch’s Vahana VR live 360-degree video stitching software. In addition to managing the entire VR ecosystem, Viaccess-Orca is providing its “Virtual Arena” platform, which includes the Connected Sentinel Player for secure playback and cloud-based Voyage – TvaaS (TV Everywhere as a Service) for interactivity and analytics. By addressing the complex content protection needs of premium video service providers, the Connected Sentinel Player opens up new monetization opportunities.

“Viaccess-Orca offers the industry’s most complete solution for premium 360-degree live and on-demand streaming, providing a level of flexibility, immersiveness, and content protection that is simply not available anywhere else,” said Alain Nochimowski, Executive Vice President of Innovation at Viaccess-Orca. “Partnering with Sky Italia and our technology partners on the trial, we look forward to bringing a virtual reality experience to the home very soon.”

“Sky Italia is a long-term Harmonic customer for broadcast and OTT applications,” said Thierry Fautier, Vice President of Video Strategy at Harmonic. “Together, on this project, we will set a new standard for amazing video experiences by exploring modern applications such as virtual reality. Harmonic’s advanced media processing solutions are capable of delivering Ultra HD video content to a variety of devices with superior video quality at low bitrates. The integration with Viaccess-Orca and VideoStitch equipment made the project run smoothly and is easily deployable for future events.”

“Our vision of providing the highest-quality video for VR is shared by Viaccess-Orca and Harmonic, and we were delighted to work with them on this project. Sky Italia allowed us the perfect opportunity to field test the end-to-end solution we’ve been developing together,” said Aksel Piran, COO at VideoStitch. “The delivery of the first head-mounted displays to end users herald the rise of VR as a platform, yet live content is still scarce and was hard to produce until today. Together, we aim at providing the most immersive experiences to unleash the market potential of VR with a flexible solution that fits into the standard production workflow of broadcasters.”

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