Industry Insights: Leaders in broadcast infrastructure offer forecasts for the coming year
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Earlier this year, we spoke with professionals and changemakers all across the broadcast industry to get their outlook on the upcoming year.
This Industry Insights roundtable features answers from those whose companies specialize in broadcast infrastructure.
Explore the other parts of this roundtable:
- Acquisition including Cameras, Transmission, Audio and Studio Gear
- Production including Creative Services, Graphics and XR Solutions
- Infrastructure including Hardware and Software Infrastructure
- Distribution & Delivery including Automation, Playout, Streaming, File Transfer and Monitoring
What is your 2022 outlook?
Bryce Button, director of product marketing, AJA: We’re optimistic about the year ahead and the creative potential it poses. The pandemic-era challenges that the M&E industry has navigated in the last two years have better equipped it to handle unexpected curve balls. Remote workflows, for instance, have become more accessible and delivered new efficiencies, and will continue to play a crucial role in the development and delivery of most media and entertainment this year.
Chris Shaw, COO, Cobalt Digital: Incredibly, we’ve been setting sales records month after month and January 2022 is already exceptionally busy. We’ve also expanded our presence in Asia with a representative office in China and are adding to our European team. So we are optimistic, albeit cautiously, that this year will continue on an upward projectile with creative technologies emerging constantly to accommodate a drastically changed broadcast environment brought on by the pandemic.
Kieran Clarke, chief revenue officer, Bitcentral: Our clients, news broadcasters and content providers have showcased their ability to adapt to the many challenges posed by the pandemic, such as remote work and distributed collaboration, and will no doubt use this to take the industry further forward in 2022, paving the way for greater innovations. This will positively affect the rest of the chain, where we will see greater efficiencies, cost savings in the production and delivery of great content.
Adam Leah, creative director, Nxtedition: We believe 2022 will be a year of discovery and change. As the adoption of cloud, IP and virtualization gains traction, the industry will begin to look for and buy solutions instead of products. Vendors will begin to offer new virtualized microservice or VM software to replace legacy systems, and broadcasters will have to look at future-proofed investments that can evolve as they do.
Pete Blatchford, CMO, Starfish Technologies: Our products are focused on processing encoded broadcast streams, for traditional broadcast and OTT platforms. This enables content replacement i.e. advertising insertion, and content blocking/slating which results in increased revenue and additional advertising opportunities.
Julian Fernandez-Campon, CTO, Tedial: Tedial is starting 2022 with an exciting new concept for the M&E industry, which is a No-Code Media Integration platform. It will drive business transformation to a new level where technology adoption becomes more agile, collaborative, dynamic and responsive to customer needs. This enables solution development to be democratized, empowering the citizen developer and accelerating innovation.
Robin Kirchhoffer, senior director of product marketing and demand generation, Dalet: At Dalet, we believe 2022 will rhyme with innovation and trust. Innovation requires partnerships and there is an increasing need for tech providers to work closely with tech buyers, as well as partners and other vendors, in an industry that has gone through incredible changes so quickly. This is why trust is so important.
Michael Pfitzner, VP for newsroom solutions, CGI: You don’t know which platform will be big next year, or in two years. You need to be really flexible. Broadcasters are now dividing their various content outputs between different publishing channels. The earlier approach, which was to produce once and then publish everywhere, did not work out as expected. Audience centricity is key as we head into the next year, as channels have distinct needs.
Lewis Kirkaldie, head of product management, Cinegy: For us, 2022 continues to be about cloud enablement. At Cinegy, we’ve been leaders in cloud technologies in our vertical for years — as well has having strong software-on-premise solutions. But this last year we’ve been working harder than ever to unify these two worlds in a way that avoids cloud lock-in and allows customers to strike the right balance.
What trends are you watching in 2022?
Bryce Button: From IP to streaming, the metaverse, and beyond, there are several trends we’re keeping an eye on in 2022. HDR also remains an area of interest for us, especially as more productions look to it to advance the visual quality of live and on-demand video and differentiate their offering in a crowded content marketplace.
Chris Shaw: The increase in programming delivered over IP will continue in 2022. News coverage, TV shows and films have accounted for the most significant growth, but the use of streaming services for video games, computers, podcasts, listening applications like audible books, and consumer-produced media has escalated substantially as well.
Erik Åhlin, co-founder of Vidispine, part of Arvato Systems: AI is becoming more and more central to many workflows, and it will be interesting to see how it helps increase the efficiency and the scope of automation through the year. We also expect to see further standardization when it comes to media platforms and cloud-based workflows, which will result in a definite increase of the latter.
Kieran Clarke: As we look forward to 2022, we can expect more use of hybrid (cloud-based and on-premise) workflow technologies in the broadcast space. Remote work solutions will maintain a popular presence across the industry as companies take advantage of new ways to produce and distribute content. Another very important trend is the continued growth in digital streaming.
Adam Leah: Open source, distributed transcode and delivery using the blockchain is an exciting development that we believe will be a hot topic in the next 12 months. Decentralizing video transcode and CDN delivery using crypto-mining techniques could also be a gamechanger, particularly in terms of cost.
Pete Blatchford: Increasing growth of OTT delivery services and focused advertising to maximise revenue opportunities.
Julian Fernandez-Campon: The top trends we are watching for in 2022 are related to cloud-native platforms and microservices for increased resilience, efficiency, and agility at the core of an IT foundation. There is a growing need to replace monolithic systems, or multiple integrated applications.
Robin Kirchhoffer: Content investments: it reached more than $220B in 2021 and we expect this to accelerate in the coming year. While this is mainly fueled by subscription streaming services, as the battle in the original content arena intensifies, broadcasters are also massively increasing their investments and further developing their streaming strategy, both on their own and through partnerships.
Michael Pfitzner: For the moment we see online teams going against the prevailing broadcast current elsewhere and actually splitting up into smaller, more discrete teams. They will still be part of the story-centric workflow, but they diverge from the central core along different paths. Also, publishing to different platforms is complex, as each platform has its own standards, license models and APIs.
Lewis Kirkaldie: There continues to be growth in streaming technologies like SRT, and IP protocols like NDI, so these remain trends that continue to justify our investment in these tools. From a hardware perspective, we’re very happy to see healthy competition in the CPU and GPU space and are eager to get our hands on the newest GPU boards from Intel and evaluate the transcoding boosts these should provide.
Any lasting lessons from 2021 to consider?
Bryce Button: For the most part, in-studio interviews with guests and subject matter experts will remain a practice of the past, with more of these segments being done remotely and utilizing virtual sets to convey a sense that they are all in the same “space”. From sports league drafts to daily news segments, 2021 saw more broadcasts integrate remote participant feeds originating from webcams and video conferencing tools into live productions.
Chris Shaw: 2021, and 2020 for that matter, taught us that we operate in a very innovative and resilient industry. The world was hungry for information and broadcasters had to pivot, invent and reinvent ways to work remotely without compromising production, quality of delivery, or quality of viewer experience. Lessons learned? Remain flexible and adaptable. Always keep the goal in your crosshairs and don’t let the situation overwhelm you or your resources.
Erik Åhlin: That Covid has shifted the dial permanently on some of the ways that we do business as an industry. There is always going to be a balancing act between the value of meeting up in person versus the work and environmental efficiencies that are gained by not traveling, but this was not even questioned pre-pandemic. The hybrid model is here to stay.
Kieran Clarke: Local broadcasters will continue to consolidate. The need for operational efficiencies is a critical part of scaling for them. Improvement in monetization of content assets on all platforms will continue. Also, consumption of television and specifically news content has continued to be very strong, and it is important for broadcasters to identify ways to ensure their customers are able to take advantage of products that support their evolving viewing habits.
Adam Leah: Today customers are looking for technology partners that can support them in a fast-changing marketplace. When trying to introduce a new technology, it’s increasingly important to build a bridge from the past through the present and into the future.
Pete Blatchford: Maintaining a focus on delivering marketing leading technology that enables broadcasters and distributors to maximize revenue earning opportunities.
Julian Fernandez-Campon: We couldn’t have imagined how quickly remote working would become commonplace and how quickly the industry would adapt to meet these fast-changing requirements. Lessons learned? Anticipate, remain agile and always be sensitive to your customers’ needs.
Robin Kirchhoffer: Our customers have put new workflows in place. Many want these to be permanent — not due to the pandemic, but since they add value to the business they can scale much faster, bring new team members, partners and freelancers onboard more quickly. Collaboration is an overarching theme. Diversity and inclusion are major contributors to innovation and success.
Michael Pfitzner: Digital and remote group communication has become part of everyone’s daily operations, even local teams are working separately. The “new normal” is also setting expectations of the user to have easy access to AI functionality to support the daily routine and beyond.
Lewis Kirkaldie: It’s all about people. Technology, hardware, industry standards – all these things are nothing without a team to work with. With the extended travel restrictions, the greater Cinegy team have not all met together now for years – but even without this, the lesson from 2021 is that no matter what the world throws at you, if you have experience and motivated people, you can make it through.
How is the continued supply chain disruption impacting your business, if at all?
Bryce Button: The supply chain disruption has left no corner of the global electronics industry untouched, and as most in our business can attest, it will likely continue to prove a bottleneck in the coming months. Internally, it impacts a range of critical business decisions – from helping to determine the new solutions we develop to establishing a timeline for when we can bring them to market.
Chris Shaw: We’ve been fortunate that the disruption in the supply chain has had little effect on our business since we manufacture in the U.S. We’ve seen some price increases from suppliers and have made every effort to keep the impact of those increases to a minimum for our customers.
Erik Åhlin: We are all in the same boat in this one. It is not even a case of it affecting our business individually, but as the modern industry is so interconnected we are all having to cope with longer lead times and being more flexible and innovative with our solutions as a result.
Kieran Clarke: Bitcentral has seen good growth in its core businesses. Great vendor relationships and planning have allowed us to improve both our materials sourcing and workforce in the last few years through company-wide initiatives.
Adam Leah: We have held stock throughout that has provided a buffer to the disruption of the pandemic, but supply side issues are something we are always constantly monitoring.
Pete Blatchford: We offer software solutions and therefore our business has not been impacted by any supply chain issues.
Julian Fernandez-Campon: We are an all-software provider and haven’t been impacted by the supply chain disruption at all.
Robin Kirchhoffer: If we’re discussing the disruption of the content supply chain, this has translated into opportunities for us, as one of the few providers in the industry of truly software-defined content supply chain solutions. Our clients have faced challenges where usual content supply chains were disrupted by remote working requirements, or the need to move workflows to the cloud. Our solutions were ready to respond while introducing new opportunities for workflow efficiencies and collaboration.
Michael Pfitzner: We have seen an increase in demand for remote working tools, supporting all mobile devices — from notebook to mobile phone. Also the need for the integration of communication platforms, e.g. Teams, as part of our working collaboration workflows and tools.
Lewis Kirkaldie: The increasing constraints on equipment supply started to show problems in 2021, and we’re keeping a close eye on how this will affect customers in 2022. It’s possible that the acceleration the pandemic provided to cloud adoption will be carried onward by supply issues that are less topical in virtual environments with the scale of the vendor buying powers.
What is your outlook on trade shows for the year ahead?
Bryce Button: With conditions and guidance shifting regularly, we’re taking a wait and see approach to trade shows. Whether or not certain trade shows move ahead will depend on local conditions and protocols. Although we recognize that this uncertainty can be difficult for both trade show organizers and participants, and we look forward to the days when it is safe to come together once again, addressing each event on a case-by-case basis is an optimal approach.
Chris Shaw: We have reserved space at NAB and IBC and hope to have a full team representing us at both. But we have to be sensible and prepared for last minute changes as we’ve seen too often these past two years. We hope we’re wrong, but we anticipate fewer visitors arriving from closer regions — at least for the next couple of years.
Erik Åhlin: Delta and Omicron have combined to put us back a year, and 2022 will actually be what we originally hoped 2021 was going to be. The big shows will be back, but they will be smaller and have more of a regional focus than we are used to.
Kieran Clarke: Although the pandemic put a halt on many tradeshows last year, we are continuously optimistic this year they will return with great applaud. Of course, the safety of our employees is most important. With that said, we are constantly looking for new and innovative ways to engage our customers.
Adam Leah: We’ll be looking at hybrid events and expanding our online presence and continue to innovate within those spaces to see if there is more value there. This will be the year that we’ll discover if trade shows are still as viable as they were before the pandemic.
Pete Blatchford: We would welcome the opportunity to meet with customers and partners face to face; however our experience is recent years has been that less of our customers are visiting the major trade shows. Also, we rarely see new potential customers at trade shows, consequently this has significantly reduced the benefit to us of the traditional exhibit models. We look forward to the increased focus on hybrid events and more general industry meeting opportunities in the future.
Julian Fernandez-Campon: Although the threat of COVID-19 still looms large, we continue to feel optimistic for the year ahead and are planning to exhibit at NAB and IBC 2022.
Robin Kirchhoffer: We expect 2022 to be another bumpy year for events in general, depending on the pandemic evolution and its impacts in the various parts of the world. At Dalet, we think smaller, local and targeted in-person events will make a big comeback — whenever it is safe to hold them. We’ve seen a growing appetite for these with customers and partners.
Michael Pfitzner: We are entering 2022 still with a sense of uncertainty due to the coronavirus situation. However, major trade shows like NAB and IBC retain an important role for CGI, providing valuable face to face time with customers, prospects and partners as well as reconnecting with our networks and creating new relationships.
Lewis Kirkaldie: It’s our feeling that NAB is going to go ahead, albeit not at the usual scale. We’re booked up and looking forward to it, and we’ve pre-booked IBC and hope to even expand our presence there compared to 2019.