IBC2010 to the rescue

Our industry's international shows are a good time to take stock of the state of the media and entertainment sector. One bellwether of the broadcast community is just around the corner, at IBC2010 in Amsterdam, 10-14 September. Last year it was a little subdued, but judging from the atmosphere at NAB in April, I would expect this year's show to be much more buoyant.

One challenge facing broadcasters today is how to publish to more platforms without adding cost. The public expects not just over-the-air, but also VOD, catch-up and mobile TV. Delivering this multitude of formats requires a whole different business strategy. Many broadcasters are still using workflows dictated by videotape. Pushing tape carts from the library to operations and back is no longer a good way to run a broadcast station. Not only do file-based operations free broadcasters from those strictures so broadcasters can tailor processes to suit their businesses, but also they deliver cost savings that allow multiplatform delivery without adding to the head count.

There is no option but to automate to survive as a business. It makes sense to look at computer-aided processes from previsualization through to air (or download). The tools exist to add and manage metadata throughout the creative process; these tools streamline production, eliminate repetitive human tasks and realize cost savings. Some of the early adopters of this technology have been Hollywood studios, using it to manage production processes, but the technology is equally applicable to broadcast TV.

Broadcasters can also benefit from further automation of program distribution. The move to make applications present as services to workflow middleware (SOA) promises not only to streamline software integration and maintenance, but also to give management a better view of the business. From this stems process optimization, smarter management and (we hope) cost savings. Little of this can be achieved with videotape processes that dictate the workflow.

IBC2010 will cover many of these challenges in sessions and on the show floor. Beyond the interest in 3-D, the sessions at IBC will also examine social media, the stalking horse of the broadcaster. As the younger generation creates entertainment with a mash-up of conventional TV, user-generated content and social networking, where does the paternalistic paradigm of the scheduled linear channel fit in the future five or 10 years from now? Consumer devices and software allow anyone to create content; cost of ownership is no longer the barrier that limited TV production to broadcasters.

Radio did not kill newspaper, and TV did not end radio. Similarly, the Internet is not the end of TV; the different media must learn to coexist and share the available revenue, however they are funded — whether by advertising, subscriptions or taxation. How the cake is sliced is the current problem. But whatever way the revenue develops, broadcasters have no option but to adapt.

We live in uncertain times as we explore this new world of ubiquitous content, but, interestingly, the average person still watches about three hours of TV per night; perhaps it's not going away right now. My question is: Will Generation Y relinquish social media for lean-back TV as it ages, or are we seeing a sea change in the consumption of media? A stroll around the RAI in Amsterdam may help elucidate the immediate future.

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