The International Association of Broadcast Manufacturers (IABM) has just met for its second annual summit, with this year's theme being: "Conceiving Strategies for Successful Outcomes." Just as broadcasters are facing up to the challenges presented by new distribution channels to the viewer, the manufacturers are figuring out how to compete with large IT suppliers and how to sell to telcos. Several speakers reminded the audience how small the broadcast sector is compared to other industries like cellular phone networks, with the global revenue of telcos being ten times that of broadcasters.
The conference kicked off with a keynote speech from Larry Kaplan of Omneon. He gave the audience an overview of how Omneon had started out in a tough business climate but had achieved profitability by 2004. He put this down in part to the company culture of being open and clear with partners and customers. When talking about technology he noted that contrary to perceptions of many, IT is not a benefit — customers buy companies and people, not products.
Naomi Climer of Sony Europe described how Sony Broadcast was shifting towards being a supplier of services and solutions. Their customers are no longer broadcasters, but multi-access content providers. They are focusing on programming, and starting to outsource technology.
As a group, Sony Broadcast is leveraging other divisions — like Sony Pictures and Playstations — to exploit the links between content and technology. In a closing remark she noted that the BIRTV show in China has now overtaken IBC to become the second largest broadcast show in the world. Broadcast manufacturers may have no interest in consumer equipment, but it is the viewer that drives the businesses.
Pat Griffis of Microsoft introduced the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA), an organization that encourages interoperability between devices in the home. The aim is to promulgate standards so that TVs, DVDs, PCs, home servers and wireless devices can exchange and share content. The key to this is rights management/content protection. The regulatory dilemma is to provide fair return to the digital content creators and fair use to the consumer. Pat posed the question: "Will traditional over-the-air broadcasting be a dinosaur or a mammal in the evolving media world?" Breakout sessions on the second day revealed a divergence in the outlook of small versus large manufacturers. The smaller companies, suppliers of traditional broadcast plant, look to the future with some trepidation. File-based workflows require software applications running on commodity hardware to keep equipment costs down and to improve productivity. This dictates a move from hardware to software manufacturing, a move many view with pessimism. In contrast, the large vendors see an opportunity to move into services as consultancies and solution providers.
Clyde Smith of Turner gave a customer's perspective of the future for broadcast technology. Starting with the premise that appointment television isn't in good health, with the mass market dying. The future lies with mass customization of entertainment, a market of one. Turner expects to see rising revenues from mobile TV, as streamed services or broadcast, and premium IPTV offerings.
Priorities include multi-resolution, multiformat, multimedia production tools to create content for the different delivery channels. Content should be ingested once and used everywhere. Clyde presented the evolution of broadcast technology as three waves. As an example, servers have evolved from a single device with an internal file system, to the second wave where files can be exchanged with other equipment from the same vendor, to the third wave where standards like MXF enable open interchange between different manufacturers.
Jeff Rosica from Grass Valley also stressed the importance of interoperability. Jeff described how Grass Valley is moving from IT-based to IT-immersed products. As broadcasters endeavor to create more programming without increasing capital spending, manufacturers have to improve affordability. Cost-saving can be had by moving content as files, not video and finding workflow efficiencies by using metadata.
His view was that best environment for customers and manufacturers is to move from proprietary systems to proven open standards. He agreed with Sony that the separation of manufacturing and services has to go.
The summit closed with an interview with Rob ten Siethoff, CTO for the Dutch broadcaster NOB. Rob described his title as Chief Transition Officer. His reputation with vendors has been as an innovator, pushing the boundaries to create systems that could support his vision of future workflows. He recommends that broadcasters change working practices before installing technology, not to impose new technology with the attend workflow changes. The latter just meets resistance from staff. He also talked about the importance of writing requirements for new projects. In his experience, some broadcasters know what they want to achieve, but others haven't the faintest clue and will not even pay consultants to help them refine a requirement. Throughout the two days, there was a general agreement that successful broadcast technology projects require a trusting partnership between manufacturers, systems integrators and the broadcaster.
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