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Asharq News

Pebble playout technology played a key role in helping to ensure the successful launch of Asharq News, a 24/7 Arabic news channel headquartered in Riyadh. A partnership between Bloomberg News and Saudi Research Marketing Group (SRMG), Asharq’s state-of-the-art headquarters features many best-in-class broadcast components and it is one of the first SMPTE 2110 compliant stations operating in the region.


Asharq News is headquartered in Riyadh with central offices in Dubai, and the network also manages key hubs and studios in Cairo, Abu Dhabi, and Washington, D.C. in the United States, as well as regional offices and correspondents across key Arab countries and in major global cities.

As many news broadcasters have found out as part of the pain of dealing with Covid, managing an operation on any sort of scale using traditional SDI or coaxial connections raises a huge number of issues when it comes to costs and logistics.

Therefore as is increasingly the same with all new build facilities, Asharq News was designed from the outset to be based around a fully IP environment. The channel was looking to maintain as much flexibility as possible, both to accommodate current production requirements for a variety of delivery platforms and to allow for future growth and expansion. It also wanted any solution it implemented to feature NMOS compliance which would allow it to work with multiple vendors in several key integrations in its workflow.


Asharq News chose Pebble after an extensive evaluation, ultimately choosing the company’s solution based on its track record of delivering advanced technology solutions, its experience with broadcasters in the Middle East region, and its strong local technical support network.

The complex transmission pipeline at the heart of the Asharq News IP infrastructure features approximately 80 flows (video, audio, and ancillary data) per integrated channel device. The ST 2110 inputs can come from any source — studio, camera, or elsewhere — while outputs include the main program output, dedicated outputs for YouTube (both with and without graphics) and other platforms, clean outputs for monitoring, and more.

The system also features DVEs, native Pebble integrated Channel graphics and ST 2110 Vizrt external graphics, NDI monitoring outputs, ST 2110 live voice-over, SCTE-35 signaling support, loudness processing, and media recording. Multiple integrations were required and managed by the Pebble technical team overseeing the installation, including Vizrt Viz Multichannel, Avid MAM, Evertz Magnum, a BTS traffic system, and LAWO VSM.

Showcasing the flexibility of the IP approach, all changes to the system can be undertaken via a single user interface, ensuring the channel has an agile set-up that is both responsive to market needs and future-proofed. Indeed, this ability proved critical to the successful installation of the system which was delivered during the height of global Covid lockdowns. As a result, all commissioning was done remotely, with Pebble technology enabling a smooth deployment process with enough headroom and adaptability built in to support key changes in spec as the project progressed.

“This migration illustrates the power of IP systems when it comes to establishing new broadcast channels in the ST 2110 era,” said Samir Isbaih, VP Sales, Middle East, and South Asia at Pebble. “This is an important installation for the Middle East and elsewhere, as Asharq News’ integrations and features do far more than simply mirror SDI deployments in a much smaller footprint. They show the power and flexibility of IP-based workflows, bringing agility to the continual evolution of broadcast channels that the market demands.”


IP gives Asharq News the benefit of flexible system configurations without the constraints of SDI’s physical connections or the costs of trying to scale a system that is ill-fitted to distributed work. The channel can set up as many inputs and outputs as needed while adding more easily and scaling without requiring additional hardware.

As a news channel, Asharq inevitably uses a lot of live content and requires the ability to react quickly to breaking news or adapt when live news segments overrun. A fully IP ST 2110 native environment supports precisely that level of agility.

“Using the ST 2110 approach has revolutionised how we broadcast,” said Omran Abdallah, Engineering Director at Asharq News. “We can iterate rapidly and adapt workflows to meet our needs quickly and in a way that wasn’t possible in an SDI world. We were already on-air when subtitles were added to the chain within a day – ensuring no impact on our on-air performance. In a traditional hardware implementation that would likely have taken weeks to achieve. Without a shadow of a doubt, moving into a pure IP-native ST 2110 NMOS-compliant system was an important move for us as a broadcaster and it was fantastic to have had the support and leading expertise from Pebble to deliver it.”

Asharq News will soon have been on-air for a year, and the channel has definitely reaped the benefit of its ST 2110 deployment. This has addressed its primary objectives, especially in terms of future readiness and system interoperability, with NMOS compliance allowing the broadcaster to integrate more broadly with multiple vendors. The system’s intuitive user interface also requires minimal ongoing support from Pebble.

It also highlights the complex roadmap that leads to an all-IP infrastructure and the usefulness of being able to rely on proven expertise when it comes to supporting successful IP migrations.

“Eight months into using this pure IP native ST 2110 solution has given us a competitive edge as a broadcaster,” said Abdallah. “We’ve transformed our workflows so we can react far more easily to news events with the flexibility to handle last-minute changes in our broadcasts, where switching happens all the time in the news. What we have in place now is a future-proof solution well worth the investment.”