Designing an IP Transition That Makes Sense in 2023

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For broadcasters and media companies that rely on satellite distribution, 2023 will mark a significant change in tides. The FCC is on course to take the 5G spectrum below Transponder 14 offline by the end of the year. This means that every Multichannel Video Programming Distributor (MVPD) headend will be re-fitted to some degree, and spectrum repurposed for 5G. At the same time, sharing C-band with 5G may worsen the risk of interference.

However, disruption brings opportunity. Moving to IP is more advantageous than ever before. For industry players, a “lift and shift” approach will not be enough to fully harness the benefits of more flexible, efficient, reliable transmission methodologies. What will be required is a shift in mindset. IP is revolutionizing the media landscape, with deals that were never before practical on satellite becoming possible. Transitioning to IP opens up innovation and global growth opportunities for your brand. So, how can you make the shift to IP work for you? 

Traditional IP solutions don’t cut it
Traditional IP technologies without true multicast capabilities and smart business rules management come with challenges that prevent organizations from capturing today’s digital opportunities. This is because when creating multiple channels in the cloud or an array of derivative versions from a primary channel, you need a mechanism to deliver them from the cloud in a targeted way.

In order to reach increasingly segmented audiences across platforms, countries — or indeed continents — you need to be able to regionalize, customize, and distribute content versions efficiently and at scale.

Carrying out this level of content versioning with unsophisticated IP solutions will cost you a lot of money. It just really isn’t practical to do at scale. Each version drives up egress and processing fees which drives costs up very quickly. In many ways this mirrors the pricing structures of satellite distribution, and in today’s mediascape, it’s too costly a model to follow. 

Another challenge for unicast IP networks is reliability. Some networks may have their own protocols to distribute a channel over IP but lack the mechanism to re-route feeds across the vagaries and complexity of the Internet. 

Consider reliable IP as navigation software—Waze or Google Maps—that automatically reroutes you to avoid traffic jams and get you to your destination faster. Reliable IP needs to route across various carriers, data centers, and other networks on a packet-by-packet basis. The potential risk of delays and increased and unpredictable latency, and dropped signals is not acceptable for high-value content.

Another area that IP simple point-to-point protocols are lacking in is business intelligence. With digital workflows, distribution, customization, and regionalization are all happening simultaneously. These basic protocols rely on extra user-installed hardware or technology at first and last-mile endpoints because they do not have the built-in capabilities and the intelligent network in the middle to carry out these functions on their own. These add-ons from third parties complicate workflows, incur unnecessary expenses, and increase the risk of failure while decreasing supportability.

Given today’s market conditions, creating multiple channels at the same level of investment you used to create the primary channel isn’t feasible. Media companies need cost-efficient, reliable ways to distribute channels. They need to achieve more with less.

Thinking beyond the way it’s always been done
Although IP transport technology may appear to be the same at a distance, we have discovered that the ideal method for creating, customizing, and distributing multiple channels of primary, high-value content is an intelligent, multicast, fully managed network. 

The right multicast network does more than just mimic the conventional capabilities of satellite in a more cost-effective way. It’s designed to future-proof an organization by providing reliability, interoperability, and an ecosystem of end-to-end solutions that can maximize the value of content in a digital landscape that is rapidly evolving.

There is no definitive answer to what 2023 will bring for media organizations. Our industry moves at breakneck speed. But one thing is for sure, the IP transition will accelerate, and it will enable more intelligent, scalable, and efficient broadcast workflows. 

By moving to IP-based transmission, media businesses can truly focus on content over technology, relying on game-changing versioning capabilities to reach new global audiences without breaking the bank. This year is set to be an incredibly creative year in media, and kickstarting the right IP transition is the smartest way to make it happen.

Rick Young
SVP, Head of Global Products, LTN Global

Rick Young is SVP, Head of Global Products for LTN Global