Broadcast IT: the Novelty Is Going, Going, Gone...

Ever since I started reading them, technology related "expert" predictions have proven to be, at best, a thoroughly mixed bag of outcomes.

Following the bell distribution patterns that you find in most statistical analysis, we often find a small number of stunningly accurate statements such as the initial Gordon Moore observation that originated the often misquoted "Moore's law," or... Bob Metcalfe's statement regarding the relation between the number of nodes in a network and its relative value.

An equally small number of enormously embarrassing, and sometimes immensely destructive "air balls" like Bill Gate's observation that no one would ever need more than 64 K in their PC, or Ken Olsen's certainty that there was no future in microcomputers.


But in the end, these statistical "outliers" are easily overwhelmed by a large majority of middle-of-the-road predictions whose partial accuracy is either derived from their initial hedging or from a painful stating of the obvious.

So it is with some trepidation that I will make the following predictions:

By the 2007 NAB and IBC shows, attending television professionals will no longer be bombarded by every broadcasting vendor claiming they have the ultimate solution for integrating information technology into their broadcast facilities and infrastructures, and;

Any broadcast vendors that are still making such claims by then will be proven to be hopelessly behind the times and will, shortly thereafter, disappear from the marketplace, and finally;

Information technology will "disappear" from your consciousness as a novelty, change or evolution that needs to be integrated into your plants.

At first, these predictions might seem strange, especially when you consider their source, but if you combine the progress that has taken place over the last four years, and the continued exponential and explosive growing influence of IT technologies in all things broadcast, it all starts to fall into place.

You might recall that in my TV Technology column from June 23, 2004, I wrote the following statement:

"A new technology appears, revolutionizes its particular area, becomes a 'de facto' standard and promptly disappears into the background while being universally disseminated."

Such is the case with IT in broadcasting. What was a novelty just three years ago is now standard. What, as recently as two years ago was innovation, is now second nature, and what was state-of-the-art last year is now part of your daily routine.

It was just recently that I realized the enormous breadth of this phenomenon. As we discussed the internal requirements and strategies to get the distribution rate version of our programs to the three locations where they are needed (our main ACE system, our ACE test system and our ACE system at a disaster recovery facility), something astonishing took place.

The same operations and broadcast engineering personnel that a few months back were struggling with understanding the vicissitudes of moving files to and from video servers and archives were now comfortably discussing the relative advantages of using hot folder functionality versus the issuance of XML commands from one workflow application (ScheduAll), via an enterprise messaging broker (Microsoft BizTalk), directly into separate archives (Masstech) in three cities.

What were once novelties, innovations and state-of-art technologies had quickly become just another set of workplace tools, arrows in one's quiver with which to tackle the challenges of optimizing one's operational workflow.

I suspect that the same process of introduction, familiarization and, eventually, complete integration, is rolling out throughout most broadcast facilities around the world.


This transformation process is, in turn, being facilitated and absorbed by the more advanced broadcast vendors. In response to the needs of their client's new hybrid environments, and to ensure their long-term survival, they have had to adapt to new requirements for interoperability, manageability and reliability.

As time goes on, this cross-pollination of technologies continues to drive evolution, and eventually becomes an integral part of the overall environment.

It is then, when you no longer have to remind different vendors that they need to coexist within the same ecosystem and we no longer think of broadcast engineering and IT as separate disciplines, that IT "disappears" from our consciousness.

So when you head to Las Vegas this year, look for the beginning of the end of IT as a marketing theme and start looking for vendors who exhibit a thorough understanding of the need to make IT disappear. That is the key to the complete integration needed in a media world with exploding content distribution channels and methodologies.

Count on IT.