Opening a packed inaugural conference, chairman Jeremy Bancroft of Media Asset Capital may have surprised some delegates by suggesting that tape isn’t quite the encapsulated ribbon of evil that some would have us believe.
“There’s still plenty of tape about, simply because it’s such a useful storage medium. You put it in the machine and it just works, without special interfacing or plug-ins, and vast quantities of archive still reside on tape,” he said.
Bancroft may not have said that a van full of videotapes has a higher bandwidth than any data link, but it fits. Even the most zealous IT proselytisers no longer talk of an entirely tapeless workflow, he added, probably because the predominant archiving format is tape, albeit data tape.
Tape-based production however was another matter entirely, enslaving an industry under threat from new media with outdated processes, and indeed hampering the critical need to efficiently meet demand from these new markets.
Recent research revealed that some 40% of viewers watch TV via the web, and while the internet’s projected US$20bn annual ad revenue by 2011 is still dwarfed by conventional spend, it is rising meteorically.
In fact the whole web media thing has happened amazingly fast. Inviting delegates to guess the age of YouTube, he demonstrated that the hugely successful Google subsidiary is younger than most thought – little more than a toddler at just four years old. Yet in October the precocious infant, albeit one fostered by what has become the biggest ad agency in the world, proclaimed that ‘YouTube's got TV’ following the landmark deal with Channel 4 and others.
So the issue for broadcasters was no longer whether change is coming but how to plan for it, by deploying systems that not only increase efficiency but integrate new media into the mainstream rather than as a clumsy additional process. The important thing is not to install new nonlinear systems and then carry on using them in a linear fashion, he cautioned. Basically the conference title ‘IT Broadcast Workflow’ said it all, but don’t all rush home just yet.