This year broadcasters are coming to NAB 2010 to build out their infrastructures and make their operations more flexible, so they can create more assets and distribute them to more platforms (e.g., mobile TV) than ever. After years of tight budgets and piece-meal buying — which saw many migrate to local HD production for competitive reasons while weathering a brutal economic storm — stations at the local level now understand that file-based operations solve many problems. (They can also cause some issues, if storage and bandwidth are not implemented properly.)
That’s why this year companies like Cisco, Grass Valley, Harris, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, Sony and others will emphasize a systems approach in their NAB marketing campaigns while continuing to sell individual products. Panasonic appears to be stressing individual products like its new 3-D camcorder.
The smaller vendors will tout their specific expertise and encourage NAB Show attendees that best of breed products and third-party support are the keys to any successful workflow. For the most part, they are correct.
“Culturally we’re making some changes in the way we go to market because the ‘broadcast’ business is not what it used to be and the market has changed,” Alec Shapiro, senior vice president of sales and marketing, broadcast and production systems at Sony, said in announcing Sony’s “Solutions to believe in” NAB slogan. “I think the change is forever in terms of the type of equipment being purchased. The emphasis today is really much more on the infrastructure than on the individual pieces like cameras and VTRs.”
Sony’s new Media Backbone, a service-oriented architecture initiative that leverages file-based workflows and automatically manages the required processes all along the way, reflects this strategy. Aimed at enterprise-level content management operations, the modular platform can be used to receive raw files, log and digitize them into the system, generate a high-resolution master, perform QC and metadata essence related to those files, and then send the material to the appropriate users or to an archive for storage.
The need for better attention to an operation’s infrastructure was revealed in a recent broadcast industry market study that found when it comes to major projects that are currently being implemented or are budgeted to be implemented this year, “upgrading infrastructure for HD/3Gb/s operations” was ranked first by a wide margin. With the buying strategies of more than 5600 people in 120 countries included, the 2010 Big Broadcast Survey is (to date) one of the most comprehensive market studies ever done on the broadcast industry.
This apparent trend could translate into a strong NAB showing for vendors that make networking and storage products, as well as software that manages content creation processes so that fewer people can do more work. Collaborative work groups will also be an attraction for those stations looking for ways to share materials easily and repose existing archives.
With some 50 broadcast companies now on the air with a mobile DTV signal, there is building momentum for such services, so stations will also be interested in transmission systems that can help get them involved. With no major cell phone carrier agreement, however, the broadcast industry has little chance of competing with AT&T and Verizon for subscribers.
Then there’s 3-D TV broadcasting, which virtually every vendor (and most session panelists) will be discussing but virtually no local station employee will be the least bit interested in. The Consumer Electronics Association released a survey projecting approximately 3.4 million 3-D TV sets will be sold in the United States this year, but even the major networks are taking a wait-and-see attitude. It’s similar to the beginning of this decade when interactive television dominated the show floor but was nonexistent in the real world (terrestrial broadcasters don't have a viable return path).
The best part about this year’s NAB Show could be that in nearly every exhibit booth we’ll get to see some of the most intelligent and business savvy professionals wearing goofy glasses.
“I’ve been in the business 40 years, and I’m looking to forward to retiring next month,” said Bob Buchholz, transmission engineer at KIRO-DT in Seattle.
That’s the “unofficial” collective mindset of the broadcast industry right now.