It seems the only certainty in the media and entertainment industry is uncertainty. Changing consumer preferences have thrown broadcasters and production companies into the arms of new technologies that emerge and evolve, sometimes flourishing and sometimes fading away. This same shifting landscape is turning vendors into either victims or victors, depending on how they react, adapt, and assimilate. The transformations have been astounding, and there are no signs they are slowing down.
So, what do we do with this overabundance of uncertainty? Do we embrace and adapt quickly; hoping – with no guarantee – that we’ll rise to the top of the technology pyramid? Or do we stand down – let others test the waters – and risk losing our claim to the latest shiny toy?
Is it really all that scary? Or do we just need to understand better so we not only stay competitive, but keep ahead of the pace of change. Let’s explore some of the issues that are shaping (or shaking) the foundations of our industry and pushing these anguished vendors towards the brink of disaster, or to the pinnacle of brilliance.
Consumers drive the industry – but where are they going?
The rumours that broadcast is dead are greatly exaggerated. But it is undergoing a massive swing from stationary to streaming – bringing with it new and complex technical challenges and a shift to IP workflows. Broadcasters and production companies need to be able to process, store and transmit data quickly and efficiently to ensure that the final product meets the quality standards that audiences have come to expect – mobile or static. One of the key challenges of IP workflows is managing the vast amounts of data that is generated during live production. In the past, broadcasters and production companies relied on proprietary hardware. Today, this requires significant investments in high-speed networks, storage systems, and computing power.
Interoperability – Can’t we all just get along?
There are many, many, many moving parts that make a workflow….well….work, and collaboration, compatibility and seamless integration can be complicated. This has led to a complex web of relationships between companies that have to prove their compatibility so broadcasters and production companies are confident they can acquire, encode, package, and deliver video, audio, and metadata streams successfully.
There are mechanisms that some companies have put in place, however, that put vendors’ solutions through a series of exercises to test their viability, reliability, and effectiveness. Simply put – they must demonstrate that they have what it takes to hold up their place in the workflow so all the moving parts can work together. For example, this past May Haivison and special guest YouTube held the SRT InterOp Plugfest – an event that attracted numerous developers that tested interoperability and compatibility between different technologies using the SRT open-source video streaming protocol via extensive device-to-device exercises. We’re happy and proud to report that TAG not only participated but received both the SRT Ready badge and the SRT Plugged badge, indicating that our capabilities have been thoroughly tested for, and have successfully fulfilled the criteria.
Are Future Trends in the Broadcast TV and Live Production Sports Set in Stone?
AI – Saviour or Satan?
Several trends are shaping the broadcast TV and live production industry. Right up front and making lots of noise is the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). These technologies have the potential to change operations and the way we do business on numerous levels. And in some scenarios, they already have. They can automate many of the tasks involved in live production resulting in reduced costs and improved efficiency. That’s good, right? But then there’s Dr. Geoffrey Hinton, known as the ‘AI Godfather’ who, when asked about AI chatbots, told the BBC, “Right now, they’re not more intelligent than us, as far as I can tell. But I think they soon may be.” Talk about scary stuff, not to mention uncertainty!
So, is AI our saviour or our Satan? Are we looking at a bright future filled with smart devices that can read our minds, determine what we want to watch, and then give it to us? Or is Siri plotting to invade our brain cells and enslave us. Seriously – do you even know if a human wrote this feature?
Cloud computing continues to offer dramatic options capable of changing the industry, but while many are well on their way to using the cloud to manage the vast amounts of data generated during live production more efficiently and reducing the need for expensive on-premises hardware, there remains a large segment of the broadcast and production community that are apprehensive of its reliability and security. It’s getting cloudy out there, but we don’t have complete cloud cover yet.
AR / VR
And finally, there’s virtual/augmented reality (VR/AR), another trend driving the direction of the industry. VR/AR can offer audiences immersive experiences that were previously impossible, opening new revenue opportunities. HOWEVER, and it’s a big HOWEVER – is Apple Vision Pro the next shiny toy and are consumers ready to shell out $3,499? I’m uncertain.
One thing I am certain of….this is an exciting time for an ever-evolving industry. Although we don’t know for sure what’s next, some platforms and technologies will rise to the top and some will fail miserably, we do know that the ones that come out on top will change the way we work and live for the better. We’ll work faster with less complexity and more accuracy. Proven solutions such as TAG’s open-source Media Control System, and technologies such as TAG’s Content Matching will result in a flawless workflow and a world-class product for our customers, and in turn a superior entertainment experience for viewers.