The past few years have seen media organizations adopt new ways of working that not only make the most sense for them, but also meet the needs of their changing audience demographics. That will continue into 2023, as a combination of emerging technologies, increasing budget pressures, and exploding content demand continues to re-define the meaning of “broadcasting.”
Broadcasters and content producers are looking for technology options to engage audiences in inventive new ways. A quick survey of industry executives highlights increased automation, a continued adoption of virtualized playout workflows, the ongoing transition to IP and an increasing use of the Internet for reliable, high-quality, low-cost delivery.
At the same time, executives note a focus on Software as a Service business models and the democratization of video production, with tools and technologies once exclusively the domain of high-end content creators now available to all levels.
Expanding Applications for Automation
Mark Roberts Motion Control (MRMC) develops motion control, automation, broadcast robotics, remote image capture and virtual and volumetric content production. According to Paddy Taylor, Head of Broadcast, “2023 will bring a wider adoption of automation.”
Taylor noted the company has developed computer vision-enabled robotic tracking camera systems that are dependable, consistent and can automatically track the subject of interest. The technology is designed to capture the correct framing, regardless of whether it is a studio presenter, a footballer rapidly changing direction, or a horse on a racecourse.
“These systems are not only cost effective but enable fast response, smooth, fluid, human-like footage with low processing and minimal manual input requirements,” he said. “Cameras can be placed where health and safety would prohibit, allowing for improved angles and variation of shots.”
Taylor noted that camera system automation can deliver additional business benefits. “Coverage can significantly increase without having to deploy additional camera operators,” he said, “which in turn, from an environmental standpoint, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and helps the industry reduce its carbon footprint as we move to net zero.”
The New User Experience
The audience for content today is expanding far beyond traditional linear TV viewing to include newer and younger viewers accustomed to watching on Connected TV (CTV), mobile devices and the increasing number of streaming services, including rapidly growing Free Ad-supported Streaming TV (FAST) services.
From the increase in globalized content to FAST channels, the surge in demand for content tailored to viewers’ specific needs is rapidly growing, according to Symon Roue, Managing Director, VIDA, at Visual Data, a global provider of digital media supply chain services to the entertainment industry.
“As we move into 2023, the importance of analyzing consumer needs will be pivotal to push media companies to produce not only more content, but highly targeted content that satisfies varying viewing tastes and advertiser demands,” Roue said.
Among a sea of ever-growing choices, content becomes a key differentiator for those companies that truly want to stand out, so the ability to deliver on those targeted needs quickly and accurately will be vital to capturing and retaining viewers’ attention.
“FAST Channel aggregators are taking a leaf out of TikTok’s algorithm playbook with tools that surface deep metadata,” Roue said. “Allowing for speed in discovery will be critical to this next phase in M&E.”
Connected TV and FAST services will continue to rise with more premium content offerings as the shift from broadcast to CTV is now engaged everywhere, according to Laurent Potesta, CEO at AIP, specializing in dynamic ad insertion services for the broadcast and streaming industry.
“CTV offers a great advantage for advertisers, combining the scale and attention achieved via traditional TV with the precision of digital targeting,” Potesta said. “FAST channels are at the first level of their evolution. The next phase will be to re-enable an advanced TV proposition integrating features like Start Over and Replay.
“The third phase, which can run in parallel with the second one, will be to propose a complete personalized TV experience thanks to the recommendation of engines, data analytics, and artificial intelligence. Combining a simplified content discovery entertainment solution based on a user-centric approach merged with a smooth advertising monetization solution will shape the future of TV into an ultimate experience.”
Breaking the Language Barrier
The global TV broadcast market is rapidly evolving as streaming platforms aggressively expand into international markets. “We anticipate that the FAST market will soar in 2023 as content owners tighten their belts and focus on monetizing their existing catalogs to improve their ROI,” said Josh Pine, Chief Revenue Officer at XL8, a Silicon Valley tech company that provides AI-powered Machine Translation technology optimized for media content.
“The main challenge will center on cost-effective content localization to increase profitability while attracting new subscribers regionally. To succeed, the industry needs to rely on AI-powered machine translation to scale for this unlimited market demand while also addressing hyper-localization, which considers multiple dialects, formalities, and colloquial phrases that resonate with a diverse audience within a region.”
“Context-aware engines address this added complexity by analyzing information throughout the entire text to truly ‘localize’ content instead of translating it word for word,” Pine added. “These capabilities support the translator’s workflow, so they can focus on the creative aspects of subtitle creation while increasing their daily throughput to meet demand.”
Personalizing the Viewing Experience
The proliferation of content, and content viewing options, has created a new type of demand among audiences for personalization.
“Broadcasting today is increasingly about personalization of the individual user experience,” said Dave Gill, Chief Technology Officer, at AE Live, a global provider of graphics and data solutions. “Whether that means consumers can choose their own ‘environment’ to watch or fans in a stadium have the choice to select a preferred camera view from their seats—that all remains to be seen. But one certainty is people’s phones and mobile devices are getting much more powerful, a significant factor driving production decisions. The audience wants to drive their own hyper-targeted graphic journey and not just take a curated feed decided by a match director.”
Gill added, “With more people watching content on a mobile device and scrolling through TikTok or Instagram vertically on their phones, it’s time to add 9:16 video content delivery to the mix as a core service. That leads to tighter integration between graphics and social media platforms, which has been happening for a while now but is simply the next step in the ongoing customer experience journey.”
A Cloud-based Future
The growth in confidence to adopt virtualized playout workflows and transition to IP will continue, said Miroslav Jeras, Chief Technology Officer at Pebble, a provider of broadcast automation, playout, and management solutions.
“Broadcasters can deploy IP-based channels with less hardware whilst leveraging preferred workflows and with increased flexibility to launch and decommission event/pop-up channels quickly,” he said. “The importance of hosting this operational infrastructure in a standard data center environment is key. However, the transition to IP and virtualization isn’t seamless. Transporting media between premises and the cloud can be challenging and improving interoperability within the broadcast chain is in everyone’s interests. Working with a trusted vendor will be valued and adopting open standards geared towards on-prem installations, e.g., SMPTE 2110 and NMOS is encouraged. We predict new standards supporting cloud and hybrid systems will be published, which would be welcomed by both vendors and end users.”
Jeras concluded: “2023 will see the hybrid era persevere where on-prem and the cloud and interoperability with legacy systems will go hand in hand.”
Leveling the Playing Field
Graham Sharp, CEO at Broadcast Pix, a provider of integrated production solutions, sees an increase in the use of video in all walks of life, which will in turn drive an appreciation of ‘quality’ as content creators continue to try to differentiate themselves.
“By trying to emulate the broadcast-quality content we see on our televisions each day, video producers everywhere are demanding professional-grade tools,” Sharp said. “So, we as an industry must continue to make these tools not only available but also easy to use for non-broadcast trained operators. I believe the “next big thing” is the empowerment of content creators of all skill levels by making professional tools easy to use.
“Let’s focus on providing simpler and better ways to create and produce professional-looking programming without expensive training and equipment,” Sharp added. “Instead, focus on equipment that is simple to install and easy for anyone to operate. In 2023 and beyond, let’s refocus our attention on simplicity, and let’s truly democratize video production.”
From Hardware to Software
Dave Brass, VP, North America Strategy and Market Development at Ateme, which develops video compression and delivery solutions, is ready to call it: 2023 will be the year of SaaS!
“Over the past two decades we’ve seen the media technology industry transition from traditional hardware to more agile software products, with broadcasters opting for greater flexibility — in both functionality and pricing,” Brass said. “Recent innovations in cloud technology, along with the mass adoption of WFH models during the pandemic, have only accelerated this trend. As video platforms grow increasingly more complex, it’s almost impossible to efficiently manage all the various components that make up these workflows.”
Brass added Software as a Service, or SaaS, helps eliminate some of these complexities by providing a ‘single pane of glass’ offering for configuration, monitoring, user management and key metrics. “Scalable and customizable, SaaS models fit business’ needs and allow for more streamlined operation, giving broadcasters more time, flexibility, and peace of mind to focus on delivering content to viewers,” Brass said.
Getting Content from A to B – Efficiently
It’s widely acknowledged that worldwide demand for content is at an all-time high but getting that content around the world efficiently can be challenging. Emory Strilkauskas, Head of Business Development, Americas, for Telstra Broadcast Services, which provides broadcast media services and solutions, noted, “Traditionally, on-site broadcast production has required dedicated connectivity between locations and production facilities — a proven workflow, but also expensive and complicated.”
“Internet streaming is a reliable and cost-effective option with the rise in cloud-based production workflow platforms,” he said. “With the internet continuing to evolve into a decentralized mix of public, private and shared cloud environments, users need reliable, flexible, and high-quality connectivity options — either for last-mile delivery or as an end-to-end broadcast workflow.”
Telstra’s Internet Delivery Network (IDN) matches the market’s need: a cloud-based platform for transporting high-quality video content and live broadcast streams across shared networks like the public internet. IDN’s flexible software components allow for easy installation on either “bare metal” physical COTS servers or public cloud servers.
“Broadcasters can produce and deliver content from anywhere, while avoiding the costs and logistics associated with fixed connectivity and on-site production,” Strilkauskas said.
Preserving Broadcast History
While it’s important to keep looking ahead to the future of broadcast, the industry also can’t forget its past.
Simon Jones, Studio Manager for UK at IMES, which is dedicated to storing, protecting and managing information and assets, said, “If there’s something that the past year, still influenced by the recent pandemic, has highlighted, it is the increasing importance of preserving history through the archiving and digitization of important assets, to respond to a growing demand for available content. The increase in the popularity of streaming services, with OTT platforms supplementing new productions with the digitization of existing analogue content, further heightens the need for proper asset storage and digitization.”
Jones noted that sports has been one of the key sectors benefiting from the digitization of broadcasts with one major asset digitization project seeing almost 7,000 hours of Premier League football content digitized, and another—for the All England Lawn Tennis Club—delivering 8,000 hours of converted content.
“These massive undertakings will enable viewers to rewatch iconic matches for many years to come, preserving these moments in sports history,” Jones said.
Managing the Business of Broadcasting
In addition to new technology and redefined workflows, broadcasters are keeping an eye on issues ranging from cybersecurity to the economy to environmental sustainability.
Combating misinformation and cyber-security risks are key concerns that continue to be at the forefront for the coming year, according to Michael Pfitzner, Vice President at CGI, a provider of newsroom and radio systems.
“Recent turbulent events have put news producers under renewed pressure to manage profound technological and logistical obstacles,” Pfitzner said. “With a recent increase in hacker attacks, cybersecurity is one of the major current priorities for broadcasters to ensure the safe transfer of information. Enhancing cybersecurity for broadcasters coincides with ensuring the authenticity of information and sources.”
Pfitzner added, “The growth of ‘fake news’ has heightened scrutiny for news broadcasters to deliver accurate and credible reporting and analysis. AI technology is already playing a pivotal role in verifying whether video and audio material has been modified and will continue to do so. Supporting broadcasters’ editorial teams as they invest in combating misinformation will be crucial in the year ahead to maintain authenticity in broadcasting.”
The economy is on everyone’s minds, not only in the broadcast industry, but in every walk of life.
Mike Ward, Head of Marketing at Singular.live, a next-gen live graphics platform, said, “Leading economic indicators suggest a global financial downturn in 2023. With instability comes tough decisions, particularly for those companies that are heavily leveraged and/or backed by investors. The economic downturn, the increased price of credit, and the reductions in production budgets are going to herald layoffs and sell offs in broadcast tech firms that are backed by PE and VC money.”
Ward added, “As debt becomes more expensive and investors seek to consolidate their losses, the broadcast industry is poised for a period of consolidation and transformation. Although it will be a challenging period for some, it will ultimately help to accelerate the adoption of new and more sustainable approaches. We have ignored sustainability for too long, but the financial pressure will, in the end, compel more companies to act. Hopefully this will encourage broadcasters and industry colleagues to work together to develop different techniques and technologies that can be fully exploited to reduce the industry’s environmental impact.”