Change is constant now, with disruption the 'new norm'

The 2018 IBC Show wrapped up a successful event last month in which the industry took stock of the latest technologies, trends and insight into what’s on the horizon. Like it’s bigger cousin, the NAB Show, the IBC event provides an opportunity for our industry to not only examine its current status but to hear from emerging players as well as established leaders in content creation and media distribution.

The major talking points coalesced around 5G, UHD, IP, the cloud, immersive audio and VR and AI, which has had an increasingly important impact on both creation and distribution over the past year. I had a chance to speak with many of the vendors about industry trends and how they saw our market changing.

That change is constant now, according to Jeff Rosica, CEO of Avid. “Welcome to 2018 where disruption is the new norm,” he said. “We’ve got to admit that this is not some kind of temporary situation that is going to go away. We have to think differently and that includes technology suppliers.”

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Rossica noted the importance of the industry working together to solve problems. “We’ve got to get on open environments where we can develop openly together,” he said. “We not going to solve the problems individually, and we’ve got to do it fast. We used to talk about doing one thing at a time, now we’re talking about doing 10 things at once.”

While SMPTE standards are still important particularly in real time live production scenarios, Rosica noted the impact that Silicon Valley has had on the modern media landscape, illustrated by Apple’s announcement just prior to the show that its next generation iPhone XS platform will support Dolby Vision and HDR 10. “That’s a big deal and all the telcos are now going to focus on those standards,” he said.

On the show floor, Grass Valley moved into the exhibit area occupied by SAM just a year ago, announcing that the integration of the two companies is now complete. At the company’s press conference, President Tim Shoulders discussed a recent company survey that revealed some interesting industry trends.

Looking at the core broadcast segment, Shoulders said that while industry revenues from subscriptions, advertising and licensing have been growing “at a very rapid pace,” at around 4 percent annually, customers’ costs are increasing due to the explosion of content creation and distribution platforms, illustrated by competition from OTT players such as Netflix and Amazon.

“Multiplatform distribution has been a problem for our customers in that they have been investing a lot of money to access new markets,” he said. “This change in market cost structure has put pressure on our segment of the industry and when you combine that with being in the middle of a technological revolution where it’s the cloud, IP, or the need to go UHD, it’s made it a difficult market to participate in.”

Shoulders said he thinks that the pace of revenues from the video business will decelerate with the average price of subscriptions dropping as we see more “skinny bundles” proliferate as well as the expansion of viewership in China and India. He also expects the cost of live TV production will increase as rights to marquee events get renegotiated and expectations for UHD/HDR coverage will be added to the packages.

Imagine Communications CEO Tom Cotney sees similar market pressures as well.

“Our customers are under increasing pressure, they’re being squeezed by a change in technology and loss of viewership to different mediums,” he said. Cotney also called for more intra-industry cooperation. “What I’ve learned over the nine months since I entered this industry is that I’m not competing with everyone else who has a booth in this exhibit hall,” he said. “Imagine is competing with our customers’ number one problem and that is the total cost of ownership and technology is part of that answer but not the complete answer.”

At the show, Cotney announced that Imagine will begin rolling out a new set of services that will help its customers not only migrate to IP but help those customers that may not be ready to take the plunge.

“We’re going to be beta testing three new service offerings that address the needs of customers who may be too risk averse to go to IP right away,” he said. “Some people like to buy into technology later on the maturity curve. We need to be a partner for that customer as well as the one who is ready to make the deal this quarter.” The new services will be ready by the 2019 NAB Show.

For the former Ericsson Media Services, the show served as the coming out party for “MediaKind,” the new name for the company division, which was spun off last year as its parent company chose to focus on its core market, 5G. Matt Goldman, senior vice president for the division, noted the launch of the “MediaKind Universe” which resulted in the renaming of all of its core products around constellations, adding that the renaming of the business represents a renewed vision.

“The product line is everything that we were before Ericsson Media Solutions,” he said. “But now we’ve bloomed because we now control our own destiny.”

Although attendance was down by a mere 3 percent, the exhibit floor grew by 667 square meters (7,180 square feet) and conference delegates were up by 14 percent from 2017.