Rationalising Channel 4's property, systems and technologies - Arqiva Case Study

Thanks to our secure, backed-up and welcoming base, we provided Channel 4 the solution it needed to rationalise its property, systems and technologies.

Challenge/Background

Channel 4 is the UK’s only publicly owned, commercially-funded Public Service Broadcaster. It won Channel of the Year at the 2014 Edinburgh TV festival and, in the same year, registered revenue of £938 million. Since it first launched in 1982, Channel 4 has been at the forefront of innovation, being the first in the world to offer long-form TV content on-demand in 2006. In the years that followed, it became the UK’s first Public Service Broadcaster to launch a simulcast HD and +1 service (2007), and the first to personalise adverts (2014).

Over recent years, Channel 4 had built up a wealth of property, systems and technologies that it wanted to rationalise. This included London property that was no longer needed and digital systems that were still in use but not essential. The broadcaster had tried to change certain processes and improve both business continuity and critical incident management systems, but its technology wasn’t up to the task. In short, Channel 4 wanted to sort things out.

What it sought was a second facility where all this could be put into one place, together with a long term partner with a strong broadcast background that appreciated the peculiarities of TV. Channel 4 wanted a supplier that would cherish its equipment, understand its background and be familiar with the business.

Solution/What we did

Arqiva brought Channel 4 to our broadcast base, and there was a good first opinion. The site is secure and has diverse power, so if one power station was to fail, there’d be power from another side of the site to maintain it. Our site also has generators, so if both power supplies failed, we could maintain output - and should that first generator fail, there’s another in backup.

We gave Channel 4 the option to tell us exactly what they wanted and we built our datacentre around their requirements. One benefit is that our European Playout Centre, full of broadcast operational people and engineers, is right next door. This means we can provide ad hoc support as part of the service, even via the phone from anywhere in the country. If something goes wrong with a rack, they can call us to investigate.

In addition to the technology on offer, Channel 4 wanted general office space – a large area with IT and email to hold external meetings or critical event management. Arqiva provided a private workplace which very few of our staff members can access. Channel 4 also has a control room, so if ever its primary provider had a problem, programme playout could still continue. We have a tape library, so if such an event were more than an hour, Channel 4 could play alternative content. The data centre is tier-3 accredited, meaning it reaches a premium standard; the only level above would be provided to the military.

The datacentre Arqiva provides Channel 4 features cold valve containment, so the racks are controlled at the right temperature all the time. We monitor it so there’s no change in humidity, to ensure the valuable equipment is installed and kept in the right environment to minimise any failures or reliability issues. Channel 4 has access to its own racks – which are neat and well-maintained – but this is controlled.

The datacentre has rigorous standards in terms of installation, heating, cooling, ventilation, and more.

Channel 4 used our datacentre to mirror its business-critical corporate IT kit (including advertising servers, payroll and more). This means the broadcaster could test any software updates on our system, then be confident that rolling it out at head office would be problem-free. Furthermore, Arqiva doesn’t need to know exactly what’s going on. The data is completely private to Channel 4, but we can offer support if needed.

Benefit/Outcome

Arqiva is an organisation that understands the importance of broadcasting and its operational aspects. We appreciate that switching someone off for 10 seconds is a big deal; we have the same culture and values as Channel 4.

We’ve mitigated the challenge of connecting key locations together. Arqiva has connectivity between where Channel 4 is and where it needs to be. If a circuit from A to B is needed, it’s something we do regularly and cost-effectively, so we can roll out 10GB fibre without stress.

The deal between Arqiva and Channel 4 runs for 15 years – a rare commitment and proof of the trust bestowed on us. Channel 4 has committed to us until what is, in broadcast terms, the end of life.

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