MAD Perspectives Blog

 A Facelift is Not Enough

Peggy Dau - Monday, April 15, 2013

The National Association of Broadcast convention was last week in Las Vegas. I've been attending this event for over 10 years, always viewing this industry from an IT perspective. This is natural given that I was working for HP when I first attended the event. The broadcast industry is perhaps the last industry to fully embrace IT based solutions to enable its core infrastructure. This is an industry of proprietary, purpose built products that manage the capture, ingest, management and distribution of content. Yet, the target audience consuming their product - content - has eagerly adopted alternative models for consumption, putting the broadcast industry (and all the vendors who serve it) on notice.

I was speaking with a colleague while waiting for my plane home. He had not been to NAB for a few years and commented on how little had really changed. Sure, this year there were many demos around Ultra HD. Sure, this industry is shifting certain aspects of its workflow into the cloud (in fact, they've been a bit slower than other industries due to concerns about the security of content). And, yes, social media is definitely changing the face of broadcast. But my colleague was right - there wasn't anything that really WOWED me. However there were some subtleties that I found interesting.

The first was simply in how several traditional vendors sought to "re-brand" themselves. An article in Broadcast Engineering, last week, challenged traditional vendors to "adapt or die". Many of the vendors referenced in this article, Grass Valley, Harris, EVS, Snell & Wilcox, Sony, Quantel, are those whose exhibits reflected a face lift. Grass Valley, always front and center in the South Hall, has moved away from the traditional black booth highlighted in green to a white and green facade. However, this cosmetic shift does not change the fact the Grass Valley still makes kick-ass proprietary products. These products serve important functions within broadcast environments, but with the exception of GV Stratus and Edius, they are proprietary and purpose built hardware products. They lack the flexibility to enable broadcasters to extend their reach to online or mobile audiences. 

Other vendors are emphasizing their ability to fulfill on-demand, online content distribution through the use of the "play" button in their marketing. They've adopted lighter, brighter booths implying the openness of the internet versus the dark production environment of broadcast studios. Yet, the proof is in the flexibility and adaptability of products and solutions, not in the marketing.

The challenge facing the industry is how to remain relevant in a world with a 24x7 news cycle, on-demand content expectations and uncertainty as to how revenue models will evolve. It takes more than a face lift to address these issues. Solutions from Forbidden Technologies, Kit Digital, Microsoft, Harmonic  and other more IT centric vendors show the flexibilities that will help broadcasters move forward. Traditional graphics vendors like Vizrt and Chyron, while facing their own challenges, are reflecting their appreciation of audience demand by expanding their partnerships to include social TV and social media technologies.  

Upcoming blogs will focus on the impact of cloud, social and mobile apps on this industry that, honestly, we cannot live without.

What's your perspective?