SDI vs SMPTE ST 2110: Navigating the Crossroads of Modern Broadcast Production

June 27, 2024


Today’s audiences are more accessible than ever before–homes have multiple televisions, we stream video content on our computer and even while on the go with our mobile and streaming devices. As the content outlets continue to increase, so does the demand for high-quality video. 

But how are broadcast organizations meeting audiences’ insatiable demand? 

As TV technology continues to grow and expand, so do the possibilities in broadcast production. From traditional Serial Digital Interface (SDI) to Internet Protocol (IP)-based SMPTE ST 2110, media operations are at a crossroads of how to best serve their audiences.

SDI: The Pivotal Pioneer

SDI has been a cornerstone in broadcasting since it was first introduced by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) in 1989. Starting with SMPTE 259M, SDI enabled the transmission of uncompressed standard definition (SD) digital video over coaxial cables, enhancing signal integrity and reducing noise compared to previous analog methods. 

It has evolved over the years to support newer high definition (HD) formats, marking a significant leap in video quality. It has now advanced to supporting data in 4K and 8K resolutions over a single coaxial cable, streamlining workflows. 

SMPTE ST 2110: The Future-Ready Innovator

Released in 2017, the SMPTE ST 2110 suite of standards charted a new course and recommended practices for the broadcast industry and redirected it into the world of IT—transitioning from traditional SDI infrastructures to flexible, scalable IP-based workflows. 

By defining the carriage, synchronization, and description of separate elementary essence streams over IP networks, SMPTE ST 2110 supports real-time production, playout, and professional media applications with enhanced efficiency

Unlike SDI, which combines video, audio, and metadata into a single stream, SMPTE ST 2110 enables independent separate streams of these components, optimizing network bandwidth and simplifying data and media management. This standard also integrates Precision Time Protocol (PTP) for precise synchronization across multiple streams and devices, facilitating tasks such as remote production and centralized control. 

Scalable, cost-efficient, and future-proof for formats like 4K and 8K, SMPTE ST 2110 is revolutionizing broadcast operations. This new standard is the backbone of the industry's shift to versatile IP-based solutions, boosting interoperability across production environments. Get ready for a transformative leap forward in broadcasting technology.

Elevate your production capabilities to better connect with your audiences.

Whether you’re broadcasting the news, game highlights or the latest worship service, Diversified’s team of experts help connect you to your goals–and your audience. 

Superior Advantages of SMPTE ST 2110


IPTV is a similar, less complex execution of transmitting television via IP networks rather than traditional cabling. Once the bandwidths were able to support studio grade media, why wouldn’t broadcasters leverage that same technology? 

Here are some of the advantages of SMPTE ST 2110 that have been driving its adoption within professional media industries:

  1. Scalability & Flexibility

SMPTE ST 2110 offers scalable media infrastructure using standard Ethernet networks instead of dedicated physical cables like SDI. This allows media organizations to expand operations by adding video, audio and metadata streams without new physical infrastructure. Network switches and routers enable easy integration of data, endpoints and devices across facilities or wide-area networks, ideal for large-scale operations like sports arenas needing efficient transmission of multiple camera feeds to production hubs and broadcasting centers.

  1. Efficiency

The use of network switches and routers in ST 2110 setups allows for efficient handling of multimedia data, supporting high-quality, low-latency transmission of video and audio streams. This efficient delivery timing is crucial for live broadcasting and real-time production environments.

  1. Future-Proofing

As an IP-based standard, SMPTE ST 2110 can more easily adapt to future advancements in video formats and resolutions, making it a sound long-term investment. Broadcasters can confidently invest knowing it supports future tech advancements without requiring substantial infrastructure overhauls. This adaptability ensures media organizations stay competitive and meet audience expectations for superior video quality and immersive viewing experiences. 

Considerable Disadvantages of SMPTE ST 2110

While shiny and newer, no solution is perfect. Although the SMPTE ST 2110 suite of standards is defining the future of broadcast, it’s important for broadcasters to evaluate and consider the following to optimize the transition and maximize the benefits of IP-based video production:

  1. Added Complexities

Transitioning from SDI to ST 2110 involves more complexity as ST 2110 utilizes IP networking protocols, multicast routing, Quality of Service (QoS), and network management instead of simple point-to-point connections. Broadcast engineers and technicians need specialized training to set up and manage ST 2110 systems, which require adapting to new operational workflows and acquiring skills in IT and networking. This transition often requires additional investments in training and expertise to effectively manage IP-based broadcast infrastructures.

  1. Higher Initial Costs

Implementing SMPTE ST 2110 infrastructure entails significant upfront costs associated with IP network hardware, software, and specialized equipment. However, price reductions in networking technology may alleviate the sting of these initial expenses over time, making ST 2110 more accessible to a broader range of broadcasters. Many organizations view this as the cost of progress, justified by the long-term benefits of scalability, operational flexibility, and future-proofing.

  1. Network Dependency

SMPTE ST 2110 system performance is directly tied to IP network stability. Video, audio and metadata streams are transmitted over Ethernet networks, which must provide adequate bandwidth, low latency, and consistent Quality of Service (QoS) to ensure seamless production workflows. Network congestion, packet loss, or latency issues can degrade video quality, introduce audio synchronization errors, or disrupt production operations altogether to impact viewer experience. 

Fox Sports Jewel ST 2110 Flypack Puts IP in Action 


Learn more about the innovative SST 2110 flypack system that’s supporting major event coverage around the globe. While far from carry-on, the IP-based technology maximized the mobile efficiencies. 

3 Proven Advantages of SDI


When something has been around for over 30 years and is still in demand, it must be doing something right. Here’s why SDI remains a top choice in the broadcast industry:

  1. Reliability & Security

SDI is still preferred by some for live broadcasts and mission-critical applications because it’s robust and dependable, transmitting digital data signals securely and minimizing degradation and interference. Its reliable performance ensures uninterrupted high-quality video and audio transmission, even over long cable runs, making it ideal for large-scale productions like live sports events and concerts.

  1. Low Latency

SDI offers near-zero latency for minimal delay between the video source and display. This is essential for real-time applications where synchronization between audio and video is critical. 

In live broadcasts, especially sports and news coverage, low latency ensures that viewers receive information as events unfold, without noticeable delays. Broadcasters can confidently deliver content with precise timing, enhancing the audience's viewing experience and maintaining the integrity of the broadcast. 

  1. Simplicity

Broadcast professionals are familiar with SDI infrastructure, simplifying setup, configuration and troubleshooting, reducing the need for extensive training and minimizing operational errors. Its plug-and-play nature ensures seamless interoperability between devices from different manufacturers, making it a reliable and user-friendly solution for transmitting high-quality video signals across various broadcast environments.

3 Unfortunate Disadvantages of SDI

On the flipside, a lot has changed in three decades. In technology years, that’s roughly the equivalent of going from the invention of the jet engine to putting a man on the moon. While SDI remains a reliable solution for many media operations, there are drawbacks: 

  1. Lack of Scalability

SDI’s scalability relies on physical cabling–requiring additional coaxial cables for system expansion. That  can be cumbersome, costly, and time-consuming for large-scale operations like broadcasting studios or sports arenas. Quickly adapting to changing production needs can be cumbersome, costly, and time-consuming, unlike IP-based systems that offer scalability through network switches and routers.

  1. Less Bandwidth

SDI operates within fixed bandwidths designed to easily support SD and HD formats. However, the growing demand for higher resolutions like 4K and 8K video that deliver more immersive viewer experiences with sharper images and richer colors presents new challenges. Higher resolution formats require significantly more bandwidth to transmit uncompressed video signals without compromising quality. 

  1. Integration Challenges

Integrating SDI with modern IP-based workflows often requires converters and additional hardware devices. While SDI is a proven technology for transmitting digital video and audio signals, its transition to IP-based infrastructures requires interfaces to convert SDI signals to IP packets and vice versa. These converters introduce complexities in the broadcast workflow, potentially leading to increased points of failure and operational overhead.

The Hybrid Approach: Bridging the Gap Between SDI and ST 2110

Like any good compromise, the best answer is frequently found somewhere in the middle. The hybrid approach combining SDI and SMPTE ST 2110 leverages the strengths of both traditional and modern broadcast technologies to create a flexible and reliable workflow. 

SDI offers unmatched reliability and low latency, making it ideal for live broadcasts and mission-critical applications, while ST 2110 provides the scalability and flexibility of IP-based systems, enabling advanced configurations and efficient media management. 

This approach allows broadcasters to transition gradually from SDI to IP, optimizing performance and reducing disruption by using each technology where it excels.

3 Advantages of a Hybrid Approach


What benefits are hidden behind door number 3, you ask? Here are just a few to consider:

  1. Best of Both Worlds

Combining the reliability and simplicity of SDI with the scalability and flexibility of SMPTE ST 2110, what could be better? With this approach, broadcasters benefit from the proven stability of SDI, which is well-suited for mission-critical applications and live broadcasts, while also tapping into the cutting-edge features of IP-based ST 2110 systems to enhance performance and reliability across their workflow. 

  1. Gradual Transition

While some people may enjoy diving right into the deep end of the pool, many prefer to ease into the water and let their bodies adjust before taking that satisfying cannon ball. By integrating SMPTE ST 2110 technology with existing SDI infrastructure, broadcasters can gradually upgrade their systems, spreading out the investment over time. This also allows for continuous operation, minimizing downtime and maintaining production quality throughout the transition period.

  1. Optimized Performance

The hybrid approach uses each technology where it performs best, leveraging the strengths of both SDI and SMPTE ST 2110 to ensure the overall performance and reliability of the broadcast workflow are optimized. This not only enhances operational efficiency but enables each component of the broadcast infrastructure to perform at its peak.

3 Disadvantages of a Hybrid Approach

Although a hybrid approach offers advantages in terms of leveraging existing infrastructure and easing the transition to IP-based workflows, broadcasters must carefully navigate the minefield that can come from deploying and managing dual systems.

  1. Increased Complexity

While the hybrid approach has its upsides, it also introduces a layer of complexity that can be challenging to manage. Integrating SDI and SMPTE ST 2110 systems require careful planning and coordination to ensure seamless interoperability. The need for compatible hardware, software, and network management tools adds to the complexity. It’s critical to have a well-defined strategy and skilled personnel to oversee the integration.

  1. Higher Costs

Maintaining a hybrid system can be more expensive than adopting a single, unified technology approach. The expenses include the purchase and maintenance of both SDI and IP-based equipment, increasing the overall capital and operational costs. However, these costs can often be offset by the benefits of a gradual transition and the ability to continue using existing infrastructure while upgrading to new technologies.

  1. Potential for Bottlenecks

Just as rush hour traffic can slow you down when two highways are merging into one, a hybrid approach here can possibly introduce new bottlenecks and points of failure to be mindful of within your system. For instance, the conversion process between SDI and IP can lead to latency and signal degradation if not managed properly. 

Making the Right Choice for Today and Tomorrow

Each broadcast operation is unique. While their end goal might be the same—to provide their audiences with compelling video content—how they reach their destination today and tomorrow can vary greatly. 

Choosing the right technology partner is the first step. Investing in your technology is like investing in real estate. You want a partner who knows what you’re looking for–whether it’s something that fits your current needs for a few years or a long-term investment with good bones that you can make your own over time. Both can be a right fit, it just depends on the circumstances. 

By understanding the advantages and disadvantages of SDI and SMPTE ST 2110, as well as the benefits and challenges of a hybrid approach, broadcasters can make informed decisions to best meet their operational needs and future-proof their infrastructure. Reach out today if you’d like guidance in making the transition.

Duane Yoslov

Duane Yoslov

As an industry expert and senior vice president for Diversified, Duane Yoslov offers over three decades of broadcast engineering and technical expertise to today’s leading organizations across the media & entertainment global landscape. Beginning his career as an installation technician at Sony working in stadium and arena projects across the United States gave him behind-the-scenes access to the technology driving the sports fan experience and set him on a trajectory that has carried him ever since. After rising through the ranks of operations and transitioning into a sales leadership role, Duane helped grow Diversified’s U.S. West Coast presence to establish a new foothold of expertise within the market.

Throughout his expansive career, Duane has helped deliver award-winning projects to support major events including the 2000 Sydney Olympics, the first regularly broadcasted HD television program, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and most recently, the 2022 Qatar World Cup for Fox Sports supported by their innovative SMPTE ST 2110 flypack.

About Diversified

Diversified is a global leader in audiovisual and media innovation, recognized for designing and building the world’s most experiential environments. Our Emmy Award-winning team specializes in delivering solutions for the most complex, large-scale and immersive installations. Serving a global clientele that includes major media organizations and retailers, sports and live performance venues, corporate enterprises, and government agencies, Diversified partners with clients to create spaces that bring people together, and keep them coming back.

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