Q&A with Jens Friedrichs, Chairman of the Management Board of PLAZAMEDIA

Videstream spoke with Jens Friedrichs, Chairman of the Management Board of PLAZAMEDIA. PLAZAMEDIA, a Sport1 Medien AG company, has developed into a leading sports TV producer in German-speaking countries since it was founded in 1976.

Today, PLAZAMEDIA, with its roots in classic television production, is also an established provider of smart and digital content solutions for all media platforms.

Jens Friedrichs, Chairman of the Management Board of PLAZAMEDIA

What changes has PLAZAMEDIA Group seen over the last year? Has it shifted its workflows or invested in different technologies?

Corona had a huge impact on production. Mobile remote production solutions and IP-infrastructure helped a lot to provide solutions for our customers during these demanding times. Thankfully PLAZAMEDIA invested early in both areas. Remote production for SPORT1 formats “Der CHECK24 Doppelpass” – Germany’s most popular soccer talkshow – and “Fantalk” – which has been broadcast from the German Football Museum in Dortmund since last summer instead of Munich – has been up and running since 2016.

Our Full-IP-Broadcast Center at our HQ site in Ismaning near Munich was built in 2018 and the capacity was enlarged in 2019 and 2020, just in time to have the right technological answers to our customers needs. IP enabled us to allocate functionality and crews within our broadcast center due to a highly flexible modular workspace concept.

Set of the “Fantalk“ at the German Football Museum in Dortmund, airing Tuesdays and Wednesdays on UEFA Champions League match days (Copyright: SPORT1 l Nadine Rupp).

What new innovations within the world of live IP sports broadcasting do you think will have most impact in the coming years?

From our point of view, the biggest challenge will be to establish UHD HDR with surround or even immersive audio, as a common standard for all sports broadcasting. Outside production is more and more able to deliver UHD etc. On the customer side, the number of UHD/HDR/multichannel audio capable devices is growing constantly. The step between will be to enable processing and finishing on the inside production environments to handle eight times 1080i50 bandwidth and upgrade all the related processing and connectivity systems.

Regarding our full IP broadcast facilities, this means processing signals in IP 2110 standard through all the system components. This will not be a flagship scenario anymore but UHD and HDR capabilities need to be built into the infrastructure of TV-stations and service providers for linear channels and streaming platforms. There are challenging tasks to be taken care of, necessary investments that of course have to be amortized and the development of urgently needed expertise in IP technology and operative matters at a human resources level.

Set of the “CHECK24 Doppelpass” at the Hilton Munich Airport Hotel, Germany’s most popular football talk format, airing every Sunday on free-tv channel SPORT1 (Copyright: SPORT1 l Nadine Rupp).

Will classic OB truck productions make a return after 2020? Or will they be permanently replaced by remote production technologies?

OB production will have a co-existence with remote production. Both production concepts have their advantages. Whilst remote production allows for greater efficiencies by reducing the travel time and costs, OB production is not bound to connectivity issues. You can do a classic OB production anywhere as a stand-alone production.

A remote production needs connectivity at the venue and, in best case, serial productions at the same venue. Remote production will certainly reduce the amount of classic OB productions, but the OB companies are aware of this and will offer both production concepts or specialize.

World Boxing Super Series Season II Cruiserweight Final between Mairis Briedis from Latvia and Cuban IBF World Champion Yuniel Dorticos on September 26, 2020, at PLAZAMEDIA‘s event location ziegelei101 in Ismaning near Munich, Germany (Copyright: PLAZAMEDIA).

If you were to pick one specific piece of IP equipment that has had the largest influence on the live production services that PLAZAMEDIA now offers clients, what would it be?

As our PLAZAMEDIA IP infrastructure is based on an ensemble of NEVION and LAWO environments, these are the two systems that come to mind: First of all, NEVION Virtuoso which is handling the encoding, decoding, media gateway processes controlled by Video iPath orchestration and the SDN management tool. Secondly, but as important, LAWO V-matrix with C100 processing has to be mentioned in this regard with its IP conversion, processing, routing and multi viewing functionality.

“Women in Sports” panel at the ISPO Munich Online – with the support of PLAZAMEDIA and SPORT1 (Copyright: Messe München GmbH l Holger Rauner).

Thanks very much Jens and all the best with 2021.  

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