Understanding the impact of the IP revolution

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Many working in broadcast will have heard that we are moving towards an “age of IP”, but industry executives are still coming to terms with the far-reaching implications of that shift.

At its core, Internet Protocol (IP) technology describes the use of the technology that underpins the internet to move, process and deliver content to audiences, allowing broadcasters to process content more quickly and efficiently, and deliver it to audiences in a more diverse range of environments. It has also lowered the barriers to entry for new entrants, opening the door to new IP-only content engines like Netflix and YouTube.

As a result of this IP revolution, broadcasters must consider what value IP can unlock within their existing business as well as what it means for the structure of the media industry.

Our latest Technology Pathfinders event, held earlier this week, examined how IP technology is redefining the broadcast industry supply chain, and what it means for content production, distribution and audiences. We were joined by four expert panellists, well placed to discuss the challenges and emerging opportunities:

  • Andy Munro, Senior Product Manager, Arqiva
  • Mark Harrison, Managing Director, Digital Production Partnership
  • Martin Richards, Principal Design Lead, Sky
  • Simon Dore, Chief Operating Officer, GoMedia

The discussion was moderated by Nick Thomas and John Cobban from MTM.

What started as a discussion about the benefits that IP technology is delivering today quickly shifted to a debate about what the future holds. As more elements of production and distribution start to take place on IP networks, the panellists and audience agreed that broadcasters will have to fundamentally re-think their existing business models, and even what it means to be a broadcaster.

We’re only just starting to see the benefits of IP across the value chain

While members of the panel are already seeing IP deployments deliver tangible cost savings within their business, they all agreed we are still some distance away from realising IP’s full potential. Today is it largely used as an enabler for existing processes, and we will only see the full impact once broadcasters start to re-evaluate their core business models in light of the flexibility and rich data environment that IP offers.

We’re still seeing IP as an enabling function. The infrastructure is changing but the processes are the same. The next stage is about using IP to do completely new things. I’m very excited about what AI and machine learning could mean in the broadcast environment.

Audiences want more – and IP infrastructure can provide it

While technologists and consultants can get excited about what the latest IP advances mean for business processes, the panel agreed that advances have to be measured on what they deliver for audiences looking for greater choice and quality. IP technology is being adopted because it allows broadcasters to lower the cost of producing and delivering high quality content to increasingly demanding audiences.

If we can lower the cost of producing content, we can make more of it and we can make it better with the same resources. We can offer more camera angles, more interactivity, higher resolutions.

IP is redefining the role of a broadcaster

The panel highlighted the uncertainty about what IP means in the longer term. Some in the room went as far as the question the need for broadcasters to have their own infrastructure, when it is possible to leverage existing IP networks for much of the post-production and delivery processes, but others felt that this was too great a step-change to occur in the near future.

Nevertheless, the whole room was in agreement that that we haven’t yet seen the full impact of IP technology. Everyone is keeping their eyes out for what the future holds – and how broadcasters will adapt to the growing competition for audience attention in an all-IP environment.

I see a future where we have very little hardware, it’ll all be in the cloud and new deployments will be brought to market much more quickly. The barriers are lower than ever before so the competition for attention will only continue intensify. As always, the audience will drive the agenda. Anyone operating in that environment will need to innovate to meet that demand, or they’ll find themselves in deep trouble.

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If you’d like to hear more about how IP technology is affecting the media industry, and how it will affect what we’re watching in 5 years, please do get in touch at info@mtmlondon.com – or sign up for our weekly mailer to hear what we’re thinking about each week.

The Technology Pathfinders Forum is a networking group for broadcast executives, organised by MTM and Tezemo. The group meets every couple of months to discuss the latest innovations and future trends in broadcast operations and technology.

 

About John Cobban

John is a Consultant in MTM’s strategy team. He has worked on projects across the media industry with some of the biggest brands in broadcast, pay TV and internet media. He previously worked at another strategy consultancy and, in a past life, as a (Scottish) government economist.