IBC: A move away from broadcasting?

If you're attending IBC, you may well be reading this in Amsterdam. Unlike NAB, which has the word broadcasters in the title, the old International Broadcasting Convention is now just IBC. It is no longer an acronym. In fact, if you go to the IBC Web site (www.ibc.org), you'll notice that the meaning of IBC is nowhere to be found. Whereas, the NAB home page (www.nab.org) says “National Association of Broadcasters” very clearly at the top.

This move away from the word broadcast will be in evidence at the show, where mobile and IPTV have equal precedence alongside conventional broadcast television equipment. A quick glance at the lineup of technical papers and vendors at IBC shows just how fast the industry is moving. Viewers are shifting from watching scheduled over-the-air channels to watching whatever they choose at home, in the office or on the move.

The old linear structure of broadcasting is becoming nonlinear. The power of the channel scheduler to dictate our viewing is waning. In the new world, the content creators fill the repository with programs, which viewers can then access on their terms. Viewers choose the time to watch and the resolution they want — from HD to mobile. This revolution in the publishing of television programming can only be achieved by the adoption of new technology to radically lower the costs for repurposing and distribution.

Just as there was a divide between the quality of network programming and local cable content, the growth of disparate delivery paths will lead to an even wider range of technical quality and production values.

There used to be an understanding of what was broadcast quality. Is this term going to disappear and be replaced by HD quality, VOD quality and sufficient-for-mobile quality? Will the viewer set the requirements for quality? If you can get an audience for your content, then the quality standard must be good enough.

The technical quality of stories can suffer if that was all that was available; immediacy is important. However, the anchors' studios are presented according to high technical standards, and additional elements, such as graphic overlays and inserts, are of high quality and created with the latest sophisticated systems.

This poses the question: Are we moving towards democracy or mediocrity in the provision of content? Can we afford to maintain the traditions of technical excellence, or will that be reserved for prime network programming and digital cinema?

One only has to look at the vast quantity of citizen-created content found on the Internet to see what happens when all editorial control is abandoned. Yet some of the content online clearly gets an audience. For the broadcaster, I believe the best way to stand out is to maintain standards of excellence, both technical and editorial.

And finally, I have a plea. As I wander the aisles of trade shows, I am always amused by how the same words reoccur in booth signage. And why is everything a solution? Do we all have problems? Surely most of what is on display at IBC or NAB is an opportunity rather than a solution.

Broadcasters buy equipment as a means to an end. They want tools to create and deliver programmes. New technology presents an opportunity to lower costs or do something new.

This buzzword fad applies across the board in marketing. Let's scrap the “solutions” label and strive for descriptive variety for products and services.

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