Aligning distribution and production in TV’s web-based future

The ongoing digital revolution is impacting all industries around the world and TV production is no exception. The industry has gone through a huge amount of change in recent years, which has opened up a world of new possibilities. Broadcasters can now provide new services to ever-more demanding consumers, drive operational efficiencies and reach different audiences.

 

 

However, this increasing focus on the internet along with other technology-driven trends have significantly intensified the level of competition in the industry. 

 

Traditional broadcasters are now having to compete with a wide range of streaming services, all of which have a global reach and the expertise to quickly capitalize on the technological opportunities that come their way.

 

 

These on-demand services – spearheaded by Netflix, Amazon Prime and the rapidly-growing Disney+ – are able to offer the user experience, range of content and video quality that consumers are looking for. And they have become even more influential during the pandemic. Over the last 12 months, streaming usage across all television homes climbed to 26% of all time spent on TV, with the number of online video streaming subscriptions reaching 1.1 billion globally in 2020.

 

 

If that’s not enough, user-generated content from influencers and the public is enhancing the challenge even further for broadcasters by forming close, direct relationships with loyal followers. With all this in mind, it’s clear that traditional broadcasters must be prepared to rethink their processes – putting a web-inspired approach at the core.

 

 

Mind the gap

 

Although many linear TV providers are adopting OTT delivery models to meet customers’ evolving expectations around on-demand content, there is still a technical disconnect between how live content is distributed and how it is produced. The big issue is that they are currently restricted when producing content – particularly with regards to physical connections, i.e. the cameras they have access to for each show.

 

Traditionally, when broadcasters create a live new show or cooking show, the production pipeline is pre-defined by their SDI infrastructure. The show only has access to a specific pre-determined set of sources and cameras – whether connected to the SDI switch in the newsroom or remotely connected via satellite links – that have been plugged into the environment hours before the broadcast commences.

 

This presents a clear lack of flexibility when it comes to quickly adding new feeds. There is no option to spontaneously add a camera to the production pipeline during the show, which makes it difficult for video content to be contributed upstream. The syncing, mixing and curation of live content is all carried out in the local, high bitrate SDI domain. This means every single camera and feed that will be used during the broadcast has to be connected and established in the process in advance.

 

This continuing reliance on legacy processes as opposed to web-based technologies, even though the internet has been well proven as a distribution channel, illustrates the disconnect that has emerged between content distribution and production. The simple truth is that TV needs to transform, as the way content is being produced and distributed is currently out of sync. This gap must be effectively bridged if broadcasters want to remain competitive.

 

 

A web-based approach

 

It has quickly become clear that successfully re-defining broadcast comes down to incorporating web-based technologies throughout the end-to-end content production process. By moving the production stack over to the same technology as the distribution stack, broadcasters will open up new ways to produce and curate content.

 

 

For example, taking a web-based approach means any internet-connected device can contribute to the production process. Broadcasters can quickly and easily connect a wider range of devices, such as standard smartphones operated by roaming ‘citizen reporters’, via the internet and gain access to different types of content – which can be controlled by policies rather than by physical access.

 

 

On the one hand, taking a web-based approach can enable broadcasters to cost-effectively meet increasing demand for efficient and flexible broadcast quality production. And on the other hand, it can make it easier for broadcaster to attract skilled employees. Moving to a web-first operation offers access to a wider pool of fully qualified people who have been working with web-based technologies for many years, thereby increasing the pool of experts and reducing recruitment costs.

 

Ultimately, broadcasters are in a fight to stay relevant – which is why transforming the concept of what TV means is more important than ever. They are no longer limited by analogue distribution models. We’ve proven that the internet can be used as a distribution channel and now the production side needs to catch up – merging upstream and downstream processes to keep pace in an extremely competitive TV landscape.

 

 

Stay tuned for part two of this blog, where we’ll dive deeper into the five core pillars of re-defined broadcast and provide some practical tips for those ready to embrace a digital-first approach.

 

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