I’ve been attending the International Broadcast Convention (IBC) since 1999, participating as a speaker, vendor, consultant, analyst and customer. Over the course of those 17 years I’ve witnessed all the massive changes and disruptions, like the introduction of file-based workflows, HD, the shift from hardware to software and then the rise of OTT.
I would imagine most attendees came away from the show this year with the impression that IP is the biggest deal in town. All that traditional broadcast infrastructure is fast disappearing. Everyone now knows that’s the main industry trend, right?
The reality is that the real change in the industry is much, much more significant than that. To the extent that I predict that at least 50% of IBC 2016 vendors won’t be there in five years’ time unless they make fundamental shifts in their approach.
It’s all about consumable services in the cloud
I’m making this bold forecast because the real news at IBC this year was the coming-of-age of the cloud. Not (just) the “let’s virtualise our existing infrastructure and applications and put them in the cloud” approach. But something far more significant: it’s the rise of consumable services that manage and distribute content to the audience alongside the business layer to create revenue from that content.
It’s about services that are on demand, used when they’re needed. Able to scale up and scale down. With no capital outlay. And always up to date.
It won’t be long at all before IBC visitors no longer go there to buy a MAM or a playout automation system. They’ll be looking to consume a service which takes care of their painful business processes. Those buyers probably won’t be very technical. And I can guarantee that they won’t even care what the underlying MAM or automation system is – they will be selecting a cloud provider who can handle their content, get it to the right place securely and reliably, and help them maximise the revenue from it.
Is this for real?
Let me give you four examples of the many early beacons lighting up that direction. You’ll have seen others.
- TV playout in the cloud:Over drinks with a friend who manages linear playout for a large European broadcaster, he told me “we will never build another facility – we will be moving everything to cloud services.” A dinner with a senior engineering VP at a major U.S. network confirmed the same approach – enabling the near-instant launch of new channels and services by spinning up the required services.
- Post-production tools in the cloud: I was bowled over by a two-person start-up exhibiting in the IBC Launch Pad. Sundog Media Toolkit provides a marketplace for specialist vendors to offer their services, on-demand, to post-production. No-one needs to invest in expensive tools that are used infrequently. A complex job like removing noise from frames can be pushed to the cloud via the Sundog platform, 300 64-core machines spun up in AWS to perform trillions of calculations, and the resulting cleaned-up video returned an hour so later.
- Content management and monetisation in the cloud: Several vendors are making the leap from thinking about content storage in the cloud to providing a full range of cloud-based services to enable content owners to store, manage, distribute and make money from their content. Wazee Digital, led by Harris Morris, stood out to me as an example of a vendor that hasn’t just moved its product to be cloud hosted, but is offering a fundamentally different service in the cloud. They start the discussion with content monetisation use cases pitched right to the business – rather than starting with MAM and storage technology to please the engineers.
- Broadcast infrastructure in the cloud:Never mind investing in all of that on-premise IP infrastructure, there was a real buzz around Larry Kaplan’s SDVI service for orchestrating and managing the infrastructure and applications needed for a media supply chain. Effectively it’s like being able to re-design an entire facility, on the fly, multiple times a day based on the jobs that need doing and the best available tools to do them. That’s a world away from deciding what size router to buy.
The future of broadcast integrators
It’s not just vendors who need to adapt quickly or perish. The future of broadcast systems integration will be ALL about specialists who know how to orchestrate a collection of cloud services. They will know how best to use the many capabilities provided by a cloud vendor like AWS and blend these with the services provided by industry specialists.
This is how control rooms will be built in the (very near) future. A world away from traditional SI and on-premise projects.
There’s never been a more exciting time in the industry
Many will resist this new world, heads firmly in the sand. If they’re vendors, they won’t be at IBC in five years’ time. If they’re content owners and broadcasters, they’ll find their business inflexibility and high fixed costs means they can no longer survive against a new wave of agile digital competitors.
But for those vendors, buyers and service providers who embrace this new approach and find ways to deliver innovative, exciting cloud-based services, I’m certain that we’ll enjoy the best, and most tumultuous, years of our professional careers.