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Views from NAB2008

The 35 or so biggest automation vendors have all assembled at NAB2008 to show the latest and greatest, but what is this year’s theme? There seems to be no single theme, but popular this year is the continuing shift to single-box solutions, the “channel in a box.” Because most new channels run relatively simple playlists compared to the complexities of prime networks, low-cost systems are the order of the day. Nearly all vendors now have a simple system to meet this need, most with integral storage, although some can use third-party video servers. These systems generally use the Windows platform on a commodity server, with a video card and time code reader to make it “broadcast friendly.”

Aside from those products, the big push seems to be improving integration with third-party systems — with BXF the leading route to the standardization of data interchange. As broadcasters move to file-based workflows and commodity IT platforms, broadcast automation has become a real-time island in that system, but is still delivering the cost advantages of the universal systems. The question then: In this environment, will we see broadcasters use technologies like Web services and SOAs to implement business process optimization? The sales and scheduling departments can dynamically manage playout in a way that wasn’t possible before.

After the show, “Automation Technology Update” will be reporting on emerging trends in this area.