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New Year’s Notions

Pixabay
(Image credit: Pixabay)

With 2021 in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look forward to what the new year may hold for the television industry. 

I’ve never claimed to be psychic but hang in there because these predictions are based—at least in part—on equal parts observation, early morning analysis (during my daily pre-dawn dog walks) and a bit of educated guesswork thrown in for good measure.

  1. Remote workflows will continue apace regardless of whether the pandemic continues or fizzles. The M&E industry has demonstrated it can keep on keeping on with staff working from home. Workers, too, have embraced this radical departure from the status quo. Even after the pandemic, there won’t be a return to “normal.” While some may go back to the station a few days per week, working remotely will be the new normal for many.
  2. More broadcasters will experiment with the cloud. In December 2020, ViacomCBS and Amazon Web Services inked a deal under which AWS became the preferred cloud vendor of ViacomCBS’s global broadcast media operations, including the company’s entire broadcast footprint. But many others are only beginning their cloud journey. For them, 2022 will be a year of experimentation to determine what works in the cloud and what doesn’t. 
  3. Fear of ransomware attacks will motivate a heightened focus on business continuity and disaster recovery. Industry alliances will form, best practices will be developed and attacks will continue.
  4. The meek shall inherit the earth—at least when it comes to NextGen TV. ATSC 3.0 enables lots of flashy, whizbang new goodies for broadcasters and viewers alike. There’s 4K UHD, high dynamic range and wide color gamut, immersive audio, interactivity, addressability and more. But it will be the simpler things—like the ability to actually receive a robust OTA TV signal and Voice + to enhance dialog that will seal the deal with viewers.
  5. India becomes the largest nation to adopt ATSC 3.0 and will propel mobile NextGen TV. South Korean population: 52 million; U.S. population: 330 million; population of India: 1.38 billion. India will move forward with its ATSC 3.0 testing as part of its larger wireless telecommunications infrastructure, leading ultimately to adoption. Its rollout model largely will be based on 3.0 receivers integrated into smartphones—begging the question, what about here?
  6. AI and machine learning play a larger role in sports production. This year Fox Sports and EVS developed a synthetic super slow-motion technology called XtraMotion that leverages the cloud and AI to interpolate between standard camera frames and generate slow motion. That trend will continue with AI enhancing live production workflows and assisting crews in new ways.
  7. Grayer, grayer and gone. In 2012, then-executive director of the SBE John Poray pointed out during an NAB Show presentation that as of the prior year just over 65% of SBE members working as engineers were between 46 and 65 years old. Not too surprisingly, 10 years prior about the same percentage was between 36 and 55. While not as comprehensive, the 2021 SBE salary survey reveals that this large percentage of engineers continues to move to the right on the timeline without sufficient numbers of younger reinforcements to fill in. Each day a few more will retire or think about retiring. Describing the situation as a crisis might be a bit hyperbolic, but only a bit.
  8. ENG van use continues to decline; someone notices; welcome to the next spectrum battle. IP-based backpacks are now the preferred method for field contribution in many newsgathering situations, and stations aren’t buying ENG vans like they used to. Many groups are simply shrinking their fleet size by replacing older vehicles with later model vans they already own and not buying new. At the same time, C-band clearing for 5G use swings into high gear. What other juicy, nearby tidbit remains? Why of course, 2GHz BAS spectrum.
  9. Mighty oaks from little acorns grow. LPTV, a service with secondary spectrum priority, has often been treated like a second-class citizen by many in the broadcast community, but that’s about to change in a big way. The robust nature of the ATSC 3.0 signal is a great equalizer, meaning low-power is poised for a breakout in 2022. Evoca—the 3.0-based hybrid MVPD service delivered from LPTV stations—will add markets, some in which it owns stations and others in which LPTV operators will become affiliates. ARK Multicasting will turn on major chunks of its national LPTV-based Broadcast Internet network this year as well.
  10. The first real taste of what advanced warnings can do. With 3.0 deployments progressing around the country, some NextGen TV market is sure to be in the path of a tornado or hurricane or experience an earthquake or some other calamity in 2022. NextGen TV broadcasters in those markets will have the tools they need to serve their 3.0 viewers with geo-targeted alerts, rich media, evacuation routes, maps and enhanced emergency communications, winning the thanks and praise of the public and government officials.

Of course, all bets are off if the Zombie Apocalypse happens, or an “Armageddon”-sized asteroid strikes the earth before Bruce Willis and his crew of roughnecks arrive. But at least if something like that happens, No. 10 is a slam dunk.