In the run up to IBC, people were opening their conversations with, “What are you expecting?” I guess we are all hoping for stronger indications of business growth than last year, but to take our minds off all that, in comes 3-D.
It's all very interesting, but how many broadcasters are actually thinking about 3-D? My guess is that the focus for most visitors to the show is on the more mundane: updating workflows to encompass tapeless production and playout, upgrading SD services to HD, and dealing with the expectations of social media users.
Alongside the ongoing technology developments — the migration from analog to digital, and then SD to HD — multiplatform publishing presents perhaps the greatest challenge to the conventional broadcaster. The product becomes fragmented, because content must feed multiple channels as well as the Web and VOD services, but the overall advertising revenues may well remain the same. Doing more for less is key to retaining profitability.
Freed from the constraints of videotape, broadcasters can revolutionize their processes, but it's not always easy. People are resistant to change, and many fear for their job security.
Rebuilding a broadcast station as a media factory has become a human relations problem more than a technical one. Because TV production is a creative business, all the foibles of us humans come to play as the business is transformed to run on an IT infrastructure.
As more new ideas come to be incorporated into media production and dissemination, the problems of interoperability seem to get worse. Older engineers look back to the days when everything plugged together with BNC cables and just worked. Not unnaturally, they wonder why it has gotten so much more complicated to hook applications together.
I never cease to be amazed at the number of bodies creating standards for the Web and for content management. Rather than help promote interoperability, they seem to impede it. Luckily, our sector has SMPTE to look to. But when TV collides with the Web, it is difficult to avoid the issues of complying with other standards. Just look at the challenges of delivering content to PCs, mobile devices and tablets: A plethora of picture sizes and codecs all add to the complexity of delivering a great product to viewers. There are content aggregators that can handle all that, but for TV networks, there is danger of losing control over their brands.
Unlike broadcasters, the new entrants in the Web space seem reluctant to commission content creation, relying on user-generated content to fill the gap. As these new entrants cannibalize the revenue sources, will professional content creation suffer? I'm sure the demand for premium content will not go away, but much of the run-of-the-mill programming is going to be squeezed for revenue in the future. Great production values don't come cheap, and maximizing the productivity of the creative team, while automating the other processes, will be essential to survive in this changing media world.
And so, we shall wander around IBC being proffered 3-D glasses at every other stand, but that is not where the real advances that affect the typical broadcaster really lie. It all comes down to that hackneyed old term “workflow.” 3-D will pull in subscriptions for premium channels, but it's improvements to workflows that will enhance the bottom line. And improving workflows means taking a fresh look at how all the different parts of your business interoperate and providing the services that deliver content to viewers, by whatever means necessary.
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