As political pundits and financial experts painfully demonstrated in 2016 predicting future broadcast trends is fraught with risk. Making firm forecasts can leave you seriously embarrassed, at the very least.
It is even more difficult when it comes to consumer media consumption behaviours, but manufacturers, operators and commentators alike attempt to foretell or drive take-up. Few, though, predicted the level of news consumption, fake or otherwise, on social media platforms, or that innovations such as 3D would be all but dead within just a few years.
With many augmented broadcast trend predictions coming from the annual Consumer Electronic Show (CES) just a couple of months ago, a number of our clients engaged in technology refresh programmes have been asking “What will consumer habits be over the next 3-5 years, where should we be investing in order to service the new platforms and technology?”
This question doesn’t have an answer but you don’t need to know what broadcast trends the future holds to future proof your business, you just need the right approach to your media supply chain……
The term media supply chain is relatively new and, although perfectly fitting, it is rather industrial sounding and doesn’t sit well within an essentially creative industry. The media the supply chain is the process by which media (predominantly video) is delivered from the originator (or producer) to the consumer. In a predominantly digital world, the digital supply chain is similar to the delivery of a physical asset – although the media processing is likely to be file based rather than magnetic tape, and shipping is likely to be Internet Protocol rather than Royal Mail. Processes, routing and, therefore, management are still essential.
The current operating model of a typical broadcaster demonstrates why they’ve become obsessed with trying to predict future needs – they’ve been caught off-guard before. The rapid evolution of ‘new’, ‘digital’ content consumption channels out-paced every previous progression in video content delivery by a massive gulf and left many broadcasters flat footed.
Digital Terrestrial Television began operation in the UK in November 1998 but it was not until November 2009 that HD (1080i) transmission began, and some broadcasters were maintaining analogue transmission (supply chains) until October 2012. By comparison, YouTube launched in February 2005 and by November 2009 they were delivering HD (1080p) content on-line, on demand.
Although most established broadcasters have expanded their offering to include digital content, behind the scenes the media supply chain is often convoluted, inefficient and specific to the given delivery platform. Some of this is driven by a mentality of (linear) TV first – as that’s where most of the revenue currently comes from. Equally, much of the infrastructure and media supply chain technology is focused on linear broadcasting, with digital service supply chains being a bolt-on, or entirely separate.
An operator would never have planned to record their own linear output from playout, manually edit out the ad-breaks, transcode to numerous formats and deliver to the CDN for catch-up services – processes like these have developed because of legacy requirements, obligations and technologies. Moreover, the issue is one of approach with a focus on meeting the immediate requirement rather than designing a more flexible architecture.
As the cycle of technology-refresh for media supply chain operations comes around, many operators, conscious that they have been playing catch-up (no pun intended) in the digital space, are keen to understand the future consumer landscape. They hope to build for the future to avoid technically convoluted, expensive-to-resource operations.
The answer is to build ‘agnostic’ supply chains which aren’t focused on a particular delivery platform or broadcast trends. By procuring or building configurable systems which provide the capability to format (transcode), package and deliver content with any associated data effectively future-proofs a facility. Tools which allow operators to build workflows which either carry out or orchestrate the execution of these common tasks eliminate the need to know in advance what the ultimate delivery platform might be.
Blue Lucy is actively engaged in delivering software solutions and consultancy services to broadcasters and media operators who are building delivery-platform agnostic content supply chains. We have recently announced our partnership with Pebble Beach Systems which, through the OEM product Beluga, brings together the linear and non-linear supply chain through a tightly integrated toolset.
Over the coming weeks and months, we will be showcasing some of these and announcing further product enhancements which can help broadcasters plan for the future – whatever it may hold. Because forecasting is just too fraught with risk.
Get in touch to find out how Blue Lucy can help you plan for the future.