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The need for collaboration in the global media industry

Writing exclusively for TVBEurope, media analyst Paolo Pescatore takes a look at the partnership between BT and Telstra Broadcast Services, and explains why companies leveraging each other’s expertise and assets can help them meet customers' ever-changing needs

On Tuesday, BT and Telstra Broadcast Services (TBS) announced a strategic alliance for an initial five-year period. Both companies will combine their global media network teams, network infrastructure, and localised expertise. 

This is a significant move considering the current market challenges in media and broadcast. As previously noted at key industry events this year, including both NAB and IBC shows, there are too many companies currently chasing too few dollars in the industry. While there has been a general positive buzz with a return to in-person events, all players are struggling in a challenging macroeconomic environment, and it has become harder for providers to get deals over the line. Consequently, finding budget is no easy feat, with many companies placing an ever-greater emphasis on cost efficiencies and the retention of customers. 

Following, as it does, news of Vantivas acquisition of CommScope Home Networks, it is apparent that the move towards an era of consolidation and establishing partnerships is well underway. The lesson is always that those who move early will be better positioned to integrate and execute further down the line. 

BT strengthens its global presence

For BT, the alliance makes perfect sense. It allows the company to focus on its core strengths and cater to the UK market. Over the last few years, BT’s Media and Broadcast unit has overhauled and transformed its operations, which has led to the emergence of Vena, an intelligent IP-native media platform providing the flexibility of cloud-like services with the reliability of a dedicated broadcast network. The company is successfully migrating existing and new customers onto this platform, with some significant names, including ITV, Freeview, Racecourse Media Group using the service. 

Paolo Pescatore

This strong endorsement validates the units decision to focus on the UK market. However, seeking to grow internationally and replicate its UK success has not been as straightforward. 

While the Vena platform is undeniably best in class, as underlined by strong support from its UK customers, there are wider challenges to consider when it comes to expanding the service to other countries. In each market, you need to consider that there are typically high barriers to entry, different operating structures, different regulations, and different configurations of networks. The rise in IP workflows and distribution that allow for the transport of broadcast signals over the Internet (and precisely what the success of Vena embodies) has also led to the introduction of new, agile competitors.

Considering all of this and the significant investment needed to grow internationally as well as maintaining and developing a global media network fit for the future, a decision to form an alliance is logical. Furthermore, it fits nicely into the new strategic focus for BT’s Business division, which is where the Media and Broadcast unit sits. During a recent analyst session, BT Business CEO, Bas Burger, outlined the new strategy and vision for the operation with a customer-led approach. “What is the best approach for better outcomes for our customers?” it asks before concluding that partnering is the best route forward if a solution is not to be developed in-house.

The tie-up with TBS is the first real example of executing this new business strategy. BT has freed up much-needed resources to cater for the UK market. It also indicates the company’s seriousness in partnering with other organisations worldwide to meet its objectives and goals. 

Fuelling TBS’s expansion

For TBS it is a win-win scenario too. The company gains access to BTs best-in-class offerings to bundle and sell with its own capabilities on the global stage (especially in the area of sports broadcasting and live events). It is clear that the tie-up is all about TBS further expanding into an increasingly global footprint, which has been a strategic priority for the company for a few years now. Indeed, TBS believes the deal will increase its global footprint by 50 per cent and expand its customer base to more than 170 broadcast and media organisations worldwide.

Arguably, and in the wider industry context as mentioned earlier, the tie-up with BT has come at the right time in light of many companies struggling to get deals over the line. It has been harder for some providers to do it all: increase revenue, maintain existing customers, and, in turn, close deals. Hence, the growing importance of scale to better compete on the global stage. The hope is that the two companies working together can offer enough incentives to get those deals over the line while maintaining the existing business.

A good example is the current footprint of customers they both serve respectively. TBS is currently active in Australia, Europe, and North America and is keen to expand into Asia Pacific, where BT Media and Broadcast already has a significant presence. The latter represents a key target region for both entities and includes the dynamic markets of India, Malaysia, and Hong Kong. 

In support of this goal, according to the press release, TBS will add more personnel to the local team in APAC who will also gain access to the broader suite of TBS products and services, including field services, special events teams, and broadcast operations centres in Sydney, Melbourne, Hong Kong, London, and Pittsburgh. Further reinforcing its intentions, TBS will continue to build a team of media and broadcast specialists in the Asia-Pacific region to provide customers with critical localised knowledge and support. Dedicated partner managers based locally in the APAC region will also work closely with the team and BT customers.    

Other benefits of the deal

Having multiple companies invest in creating and maintaining international networks for international broadcast transport is pointless. Such duplication of effort is costly and makes no sense from the increasingly important environmental sustainability perspective. 

The partnership also helps to address the growing problem of a skills shortage in the media and broadcast industries. Broadcast has some quite specific demands that make a simple porting of IT skills over into its workspaces problematic. Being able to pool finite resources between the two organisations — especially when bulletproof reliability is expected for live broadcasting — and offer ever deeper ‘follow the sun’ support and expertise is a smart move.


The media and broadcast industries are in a state of flux. Partnerships are among the few ways to achieve a truly successful and scalable global content delivery network in a shrinking marketplace. Hence, the importance of this tie-up, which is much more than an alliance, highlights the need to collaborate, tapping into each other’s resources to serve the global community better and move into new markets. BT can focus on its core UK market, as underlined by its platform strategy, while still having a presence globally through TBS. For the latter, the deal can help it achieve its global aspirations and throw down the gauntlet to TATA Media & Entertainment Services and others. Aligned with the current market challenges, companies are trying to achieve cost savings, protect existing customers, and seeking to increase revenue by signing up new deals. 

Collectively, the two companies can leverage each other’s expertise and assets to meet customers’ ever-changing needs and improve sustainability in a flexible pathway for the future. The use of initialin the stated press release is also important as it suggests optimism for a much longer-term play. While the merits are apparent, the success of this alliance will be evident within the first couple of years. Ultimately, TBS is in the driving seat to move this forward dynamically and demonstrate the success of this tie-up on the global stage. Undoubtedly, we can expect to see an extension if it succeeds, and as Bas Burger indicated, more partnerships on the horizon for the wider BT Business.