Cisco Systems Helps Altitude Sports and Entertainment Reach New Heights

By John Rice

Denver-based Altitude Sports and Entertainment Network has selected the Cisco MPEG-4 Advanced Video Coding (AVC) and transcoding high-definition platform for its programming distribution. Altitude is the official television network of the Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, Colorado Mammoth, and Colorado Rapid sports teams. The network also programs music and theatrical performances as well as extreme sports, boxing, rodeo, auto racing, golf, and skiing.

According to Brian Morris, Cisco VP of Global Business Development for the Digital Media Networks business unit, the new installation will result in “the clarity of the HD being higher than has been seen in the past.” Where Altitude has been providing HD programming, the new Cisco platform uses H.264 format.

Altitude will be distributing a single MPEG-4 AVC HD video stream for reception by Cisco Advanced Receiver Transcoders, which will convert incoming video to MPEG-2 HD. According to Morris, the Cisco MPEG-4 AVC encoder creates a single MPEG-4 AVC HD video stream that requires 50% less bandwidth than an MPEG-2 stream.

Altitude launched in 2004 using Cisco’s PowerVu standard-definition distribution system. Altitude COO Matthew Hutchings says, “When you make a transition to advanced technology, you don’t want to team with a newcomer. Our past experience with Cisco plus its leadership in the MPEG-4 AVC encoding and transcoding marketplace helped us take an aggressive time-to-market approach to take advantage of the savings in capital and operating expenses with this new platform.”

Altitude is among a growing number of forward-looking content providers that are evolving their networks into a medianet, a network optimized for video and rich media.

Morris calls Cisco’s relationship with Altitude a “partnership.” “They are a progressive group,” he says, “trying to push the envelope on the quality of HD and push the envelope on their portfolio of content.” He says the company will continue to work with Altitude to “try to evolve even larger distribution and to promote new business models.”

Morris expects the new system to be fully installed and live within 30 days.