It’s no secret that we live in a world that is thirsty for video. Due to the proliferation of internet-enabled mobile phones and other connected devices, consumer expectations for where, what and how they watch content have changed drastically. Long gone are the days where consumers sit back on the couch and watch a program pushed to them at a given time and channel. According to a recent study done by AOL, 89% of consumers live within arm’s reach of their smartphones at all times and 57% watch mobile video every day . More content than ever before is being delivered directly to the consumer – giving them greater freedom and flexibility over their viewing behavior. As a result, a massive generational technology transformation is happening in the broadcasting industry as traditional media companies work to stay competitive and relevant in our multiscreen, hyper-competitive world.
I joined the media broadcast industry four years ago, at a pivotal moment when the industry was about to undergo a major generational technology transition away from the decades-old proprietary, big-iron infrastructures of the past and toward next-generation internet protocol (IP), software and cloud-based infrastructures running off commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS), standard IT hardware. By making this change, media companies will have greater flexibility, scalability and agility to meet growing consumer demands and compete with their more nimble, internet-based counterparts. Prior to joining the industry, I spent nearly two decades in telecom, where I witnessed the industry transition to Voice over IP (VOIP) as the standard protocol for which voice and data were delivered, so I understood how this story was going to play out.
With next-generation infrastructures, media companies can launch new channels in a matter of minutes – something that previously took months to do – and at a fraction of the cost. This will enable them to more easily deliver and monetize content. For example, a company could bring dozens of pilot shows to fruition, compared to the mere handful each season that we get today. They can also set up and tear down a special channel for one-time events, such as the Olympics. These next-generation infrastructures will also better position them to upgrade their workflows and deliver video in higher resolutions and formats such as ultra high definition (UHD) and virtual or augmented reality. As companies get efficient at delivering and monetizing content, they will also be able to better focus on innovation and elevating the customer experience through technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the internet of things (IOT).
Since 2013, the conversation around this massive transition from SDI to a hybrid or pure IP environment has shifted from ‘should I’ to ‘at what pace and what does my path look like?’ We recently concluded the NAB show in Las Vegas and one major takeaway was that IP is really coming into its own zone. Since Disney/ABC Television Group announced at NAB two years ago that they were moving their linear playout operations to an IP cloud environment with Imagine Communications, more and more customers and partners are looking to adopt IP as the future direction of their business. Today we are involved in over 75 proofs of concept with media companies around the globe.
This acceleration is due in large part to industry standards for the transport of media over IP created by associations including the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), European Broadcast Union, Video Services Forum (VSF), Advanced Media Workflow Association (AMWA) and the efforts of the Alliance for IP Media Solutions (AIMS) in promoting their adoption. In December 2015 we united with a number of industry vendors to form AIMS. A year and a half later, we have seen tremendous success and industry-wide support with over 70 members and growing. A major milestone for the AIMS alliance took place at the 2017 NAB Show, where over 45 companies participated in one of the largest successful industry-wide interoperability test between different vendor’s IP components. By adopting standards, we will help our collective customers avoid vendor lock-in and confusion as the industry barrels toward the future.
This industry acceleration has also been due to an ongoing fusion between the media and IT industries. While IT industry elite like Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Microsoft have long excelled in the enterprise and telecom markets, they are taking note that video is the new currency of the digital age. While there’s been some concern about the readiness of IT-based infrastructures to handle the rigors of broadcast operations, these players are working to better condition IT environments to meet the demands, requirements and specific technologies that are exclusive to the media industry. By capitalizing on IT industry expertise, media companies will be able to innovate and accelerate business innovation, such as delivering new services simply, reliably and securely.
Mobile and over-the-top video is having a massive impact on media companies’ infrastructure requirements, operations and business models. We have seen and will continue to see more change in the next five years than we have seen in the past 50, as media companies undergo major transformations in order to more efficiently deliver and monetize high-quality content to consumers on any device. While the pace of change has been fast, things won’t slow down, as the onset of ATSC 3.0 and 5G will give everyone the ability to deliver content anywhere, on a level playing field, making our world hyper competitive and highly opportunistic. Those who were partners in the past will become competitors in the future. As such, media companies need to take steps to stay relevant and competitive.