Industry Insights: How will the COVID-19 pandemic continue to impact broadcast in 2021?

By NewscastStudio

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The coronavirus pandemic has forced broadcasters around the globe to rethink their approach to producing and delivering content – resulting in changes to staffing, technology stacks and facilities. In this multipart Industry Insights roundtable series, our panel of broadcast industry experts looks ahead to 2021.

From thoughts on the lasting changes in the broadcast industry and capital expenditures in the year ahead to how trade shows will work, our panel shares their thoughts. 

In this first part of the Industry Insights roundtable, we look at the impact of Covid-19 in 2021 and how it will continue to impact broadcasters.


Make sure to read the rest of our Industry Insights series, including:


How will the COVID-19 pandemic continue to impact broadcast in 2021?

“There’s a clear message of enthusiasm that we will put behind us the problems that COVID-19 brought and regenerate our industry in 2021,” said Paola Hobson, managing director of InSync Technology.

“I believe the most optimistic view is that multiple vaccines will come online in the early part of the year and will, eventually, lead to a full relaxation of the current restrictions by the middle of next year. For broadcast this will coincide with significant advertising revenue growth as companies try to regain market position,” said James Eddershaw, managing director for Shotoku Broadcast Systems.

“Working remotely has become the norm and I don’t see this changing. The push towards remote production has proved that live news and sports can be delivered with a much smaller onsite footprint, and it has happened a lot faster than before than pandemic,” said Phil Ventre, VP of sports and broadcast at Ncam. “There are many upsides to this, but from a social perspective I don’t believe that working remotely, without regular workplace interaction, is good for our collective mental health.”

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“The industry has reached a stage where new habits and means of working have settled for most broadcast and media organizations. Throughout 2021, and with the gradual arrival of a vaccine, most companies will evaluate how to continue to operate efficiently, balancing out new remote working processes with a partial return to office-based operations. Cloud infrastructure will continue to support remote workflows and eliminate dependency on on-premises systems,” said Dalet’s Robin Kirchhoffer and Bea Alonso.

“A continued emphasis on remote production workflows will endure throughout 2021. Balancing personnel on set or in venue with streamlined remote control centers will continue to merge feeds and talent from across many regions. The past year has been an intense laboratory for deciphering the best methodologies and workflows for minimizing staff on-site, while innovating new technologies and data-driven features to augment at-home audience viewing experiences,” said Bryce Button, director of product marketing for AJA Video Systems.

“With the lockdowns, our largest customers transitioned almost overnight from studio production to remote locations, with thousands of support staff deploying, monitoring and managing operations from home. To do this they were forced to fully embrace cloud-based applications that can be accessed instantly from anywhere and leverage the flexibility that IP delivery gives them versus legacy satellite distribution that is much harder to deploy in new applications. The move to the cloud and remote production are all things that our customers were already putting in their long-term plans, but COVID was that inflection point that caused them to act immediately,” predicted John Wastcoat, SVP of alliances and marketing at Zixi.

“The enduring hybridization of standard baseband with IP methodologies, streaming and OTT delivery platforms will continue to strengthen. Ever-increasing adoption of SRT and other protocols will continue to allow the public internet to be a secure and reliable transport mechanism for production processes. For fully IP-based workflows, the coming adoption of compression standards within the ST 2110 space and the push into AV for streaming, alongside NDI, SDVoE and other IP-driven technology, will continue to expand. Additionally, 12G-SDI and Fiber solutions will continue to accelerate workflows for point-to-point needs within venues and between locations. To meet the ever-increasing demands of high bandwidth content, 12G-SDI Fiber further simplifies workflows by transporting 4K/UltraHD HFR content over a single cable up to 10km,” explained Button.

“We’re already seeing renewed customer interest and projects which were on hold slowly starting to come back to life. It’s hard for many of our customers as they are dealing with situations where their staff have to continue to work from home, and live events are still being postponed in some areas. Although this will persist into the early part of 2021, all the signs point to relaxation of rules by summer 2021, leading to stepping up of activity and revived energy in the second half of the year,” said Hobson.

“With software-defined workflows, deployments can now be established in minutes versus what used to take weeks or longer and is an opportunity to keep rapidly adding new and innovative use cases. We expect this trend towards virtualization and software-defined broadcast infrastructures to continue into 2021,” said Wastcoat.

“The industry is turning upside down, taking advantage of interest in new streaming conventions and the high demand for in-home entertainment, but amplifying the inefficiencies that were already at play. So companies are reorganizing quickly and that means a lot of people are losing their jobs, or having to take on more responsibilities internally. I think 2021 is going to present a lot of outsourcing for networks, which will be an opportunity for outside agencies,” said Lori Pate, business development director and partner at CMO Marketplace.

“Having the event site, control rooms, production personnel, and on-air talent at multiple locations will continue to be the ‘new normal.’ Technical managers will have to be ready to change broadcast deployments in hours or just a few days. The planning horizon has become much shorter. For good or for bad, ‘slow and steady wins the race’ won’t cut it in this new environment,” warned Gordon Kapes, president of Studio Technologies.

“I think we’re experiencing a fundamental shift in remote workflows that started before the pandemic hit,” said Tod Musgrave, director of cameras at Marshall Electronics. “There will be a continuation of safe practices, reduced personnel on-site, and fewer people traveling.”

“Ad spend will continue to be impacted as a result of the ongoing economic consequences caused by COVID-19. This in turn will force broadcasters to continue to update and refine their strategies and business models in order to manage and maximize the value of the massively increased media consumption in 2020 while struggling with reduced ad revenues. The decreased revenues have had an impact on innovation spend, which will most likely pick up later in the year as we hopefully approach the end of the pandemic later in 2021. Finally, broadcasters will need to ramp up their remote production capabilities (technology + workflows) in anticipation of the return of large-scale live sports, including the rescheduled 2021 Olympics,” Jason Marchese, head of sales in North America for Red Bee Media, told us.

“The COVID-19 pandemic was a disruption that broadcasters weren’t specifically planning for, but they were able to quickly adapt to. In terms of news; technology that delivers low latency return video teleprompting has become crucial during this period. The ability to deliver precisely-timed and captivating live content under these circumstances has become an exercise in ingenuity, creativity, and flexibility. Provision for transmitting high-quality broadcasts from people’s homes will continue to be a priority for all news channels throughout 2021,” explained Yvonne Monterroso, director of product management at Dejero.

“Remote production/distributed production workflows will continue to improve as the industry recognizes the operational value of this approach. Delays in projects will keep impacting budgets as logistics with COVID are more complicated and in some cases impair the ability to execute on these projects,” predicted Rafael Fonseca, VP of product management at Artel.

 

Participants

Phil Ventre – Ncam
John Wastcoat – Zixi
Paola Hobson – InSync Technology
Robin Kirchhoffer and Bea Alonso – Dalet
Bryce Button – AJA Video Systems
Lori Pate – CMO Marketplace
Gordon Kapes – Studio Technologies
Tod Musgrave – Marshall Electronics
John Marchese – Red Bee Media
Yvonne Monterros – Dejero
Rafael Fonseca – Artel
James Eddershaw – Shotoku Broadcast Systems