By Chris Clarke, CEO, Cerberus Tech
The broadcasting industry was comparatively slow to implement a transition to cloud-based technology, until the restrictions of COVID pushed the pace of change. There are, of course, several good reasons for this. The main one being that broadcast infrastructure is very established, having been developed and iterated on over decades.
Any changes to content delivery need to be met with careful logistical planning. In many cases, organizations were stuck in a cycle of high output, with little extra time available to investigate emerging technologies. But to a certain extent, have industry mindsets been caught in a similar trap of cyclical thinking?
A recent report from Harvard Business Review stated that 89% of executives surveyed thought digital transformation required the improvement of three key components; technology, processes and culture. The report also noted that many executives are shifting priorities from profits to resiliency post-COVID. But what if the tools exist to maximize both of these for the broadcast sector?
Technology — Lessons from a Crisis
When the onset of COVID pressed pause on the industry, organizations had a chance to take stock and assess their workflows and overall strategy. This was felt particularly strongly within sports broadcasting. Without the usual relentless schedule of live events to keep on top of, many companies started to explore new options. Technology that had previously been viewed as an interesting development, such as remote production and IP delivery, now came to be seen as essential. When professional sport kicked off again, with social distancing restrictions in place, these solutions were often a more suitable option for safely broadcasting matches.
In the aftermath of a crisis, it can be all too easy to return to established methods and forget the inherent risks associated with a reluctance to embrace change. It’s important that the industry does not fall back into business-as-usual but instead carries the lessons from the pandemic forward. In these instances, it can be helpful to tailor next-generation solutions to current organizational needs, with one eye on a longer-term transition. The spin-up / spin-down nature of cloud-based delivery infrastructure, means it can offer a unique level of flexibility for organizations. Users can set-up an environment for a day, or a one-off event, with minimal overheads and then scale as needed. Unlike traditional broadcast infrastructure, IP solutions are adaptable environments that often don’t require proprietary hardware. Therefore, proof of concept can be achieved with minimal outlay and low commitment from potential customers.
Processes — Adapting to Anything
While a cloud-based approach carries the benefits of flexibility, choice can sometimes be overwhelming. Within the complexities of broadcasting, there isn’t a fixed process and workflows can differ significantly depending on the content requirements. The confusion created by different processes for distributing content can be challenging to manage. Broadcast engineers that have years of experience with traditional workflows may not have the necessary technical understanding of processing and transcoding options to implement IP solutions effectively.
Another barrier to the widespread adoption of IP for broadcast is the lack of interoperability with companies often locked into restrictive long-term agreements, specific protocols, or single cloud platforms. For IP solutions to gain the momentum we should be opening up the options for broadcasters and production companies — not closing them down. Organizations need to be able to implement workflow strategies, infrastructure and processes that fit into their requirements. While some may be happy to self-serve feeds with an on-demand solution, others with a more involved set-up may prefer a managed IP service, in order to outsource complexity. By listening to what the industry is telling us rather than pushing one size-fits-all solution, we can pave the way for the adoption of a cloud-based approach to content delivery.
Culture — Embracing Change
While COVID has been a catalyst for innovation, mindsets need to keep pace with new technology developments to ensure that the broadcasting sector can benefit fully. Organizations across the industry have seen the value of using IP and cloud technologies and are now moving to implement these workflows more widely. But there are some that remain reticent.
If there is one thing that the pandemic has shown us it’s that in order to thrive, we need to build adaptable strategies that can weather any storm. But also, to capitalize on the benefits that new technology developments bring. As American psychologist and Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, Carol Dweck highlights in her research — two opposing mindsets have a huge impact on the way that change is perceived. A “fixed mindset” leads organizations to consider the capabilities and talent of their team as static. This means that those companies are inherently slow to adopt new technology and processes, preferring to stick with the status quo. In contrast those with a “growth mindset” create a more innovative culture that embraces change.
While it is tempting to fixate on the implications of next-gen technology for specific sections of broadcast workflows, it’s vital that we are all stepping back and taking a broader view. Since the pandemic started, we have already seen widespread adoption of media asset management in the cloud, as well as huge increases in OTT content consumption and so delivery via IP naturally plays into this bigger picture. We are heading towards an unbroken chain of content in the cloud, that moves seamlessly from source acquisition through to viewer engagement.
The shift to next-gen solutions will need to be accompanied by a shift in both culture and processes. But the benefits derived from these changes will help organizations engage with bigger audiences, maximize resources and future-proof the industry.