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IABM explores trends for 2014 and beyond

The IABM’s programme at IBC begins on Friday morning at 8am with the business conference session, writes Peter White, chief executive, IABM, which asks, ‘What is the future for broadcasting technology’.

The IABM’s programme at IBC begins on Friday morning at 8am with the business conference session, writes Peter White, chief executive, IABM, which asks, ‘What is the future for broadcasting technology’. It starts with an IABM state of the industry update and then moves on to a panel debate chaired by our own John Ive and includes Imagine Communications’ Charlie Vogt, Grass Valley’s Marco Lopez, Quantel’s Ray Cross and Dan Castles from Telestream.

So what is the future for broadcasting technology? Well certainly the supply sector will be very different to what we are looking at today.

Traditionally the broadcast technology vendor has fulfilled the needs of its customers by producing almost bespoke solutions based around proprietary hardware sold at high margins and with a built-in ongoing income stream. It is fair to say that all this is changing and proprietary hardware, post content acquisition, is progressively being replaced by software products sitting on commodity IT hardware.

Furthermore, customers are demanding a more open approach where interoperability of hardware from multiple sources sits and works on the organisation’s enterprise wide system. It is the overarching software system that is defining how a broadcaster operates and not the individual component elements of hardware, which merely provide the platform.

To reinforce this move to interoperability UK broadcasters have adopted the DPP standard for file-based delivery, effective from October this year. This standard may well also be adopted across the rest of Europe. The IABM recently hosted a preview event on this subject in conjunction with the BBC at IBM’s Southbank premises in London. The IABM also sits on a Joint Task Force on File Formats and Media Interoperability with NABA, SMPTE, AMWA, Ad-ID and EBU (observer) to develop a similar standard for file delivery for the North American market.

This is of course how it has been for many years in other industries and marks the first stage of transition in broadcast technology from bespoke high value hardware-based proprietary solutions to open system architecture and flexible software defined solutions.

Further down the line we will move to a world where software will define the infrastructure and methodology, and networks will be virtual, where automation will reside and simultaneous multiple format playout will be delivered from the cloud. This will clearly impact many of our existing and traditional broadcast and media technology suppliers and perhaps the best-known suppliers of today will be different to that of tomorrow.

We can be certain that consolidation in our supply base will continue. This is not only the natural order of things but has precedent in other industries that have undergone such a transition considerably earlier. It was the switch from tape to file that made IT convergence and commoditisation possible, the rest was inevitable.

Market challenges

The challenge of the future for broadcast and media technology vendors is to remain relevant and to do this we must innovate. Innovate to create the products and services that broadcasters and media content providers demand of us in this ever-changing consumer device led market. On average broadcast and media technology suppliers invest 16% of their sales revenue in R&D each year (Source: IABM Benchmark Report) and this level of investment has been consistent for a number of years.

So although the products and services (excluding cameras, lenses and accessories) being developed for the future may bear little resemblance to that of the past, there is a healthy stream of new innovations being launched and the NPD roadmap of many of our member companies is very healthy indeed.

In addition to this investment from existing players there is also a steady influx of new providers of products and services entering the fray. In many cases these new players are at the forefront of the new media charge and bring some incredibly innovative solutions to the challenges presented by the TV everywhere phenomenon.

So as we witness consolidation in some areas we simultaneously observe proliferation in others. Of course another feature of the M&A activity we are seeing at the moment is the acquisition of some of these newer players which can help a more established supplier take a leap forward and develop at a faster pace than their current in house R&D programme can facilitate.