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Why the Move to IP Is So Hard

​I was discussing yet another IP transport protocol with the President/CTO of a well-known technology vendor and “The State of the State” of the move to IP when I had an Epiphany! These usually happen at inopportune times like in the shower or when you wake up, but this time it was in the middle of an appropriate conversation.

We were discussing some of the reasons for the reluctance to accept that IP is here and the hurdles to agree on how to handle it live when it hit me. We all talk about how disruptive a change IP has been and continues to be. What we are not saying is why. And that’s when the light bulb went off. The CTO felt the same way and it changed the tenor of the entire conversation.

For the purposes of this conversation I will break the broadcast industry into a set of service models.

  1. Consumer Service Model or what they want
  2. Production Model or how to make it
  3. Distribution Model or how to get to them
  4. Business Model – how do we make money
  5. Technology Model – what tools are needed

In many of my articles, I have carried on about the reluctance to accept and adopt. This is SO much bigger than that.

Before IP and multiple platforms, all of this was easier. The industry knew what to produce, how to produce it, how to deliver it and how it made money. Technology manufacturers and service providers knew what their business models were based on.

New broadcast and production technology will rely on COTS components. Image: tech pinions.

New broadcast and production technology will rely on COTS components. Image: tech pinions.

Enter a computer centric media ecosystem built on commodity hardware COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) and their world changed overnight. Proprietary hardware is no longer the differentiator between products. Technology has become very software centric. The broadcast and production community has lots of technology still with useful life. This means the manufacturers need to support the “legacy” technology as they try to sunset it and move to a completely new product set. This is a complete change in their manufacturing process, possibly including new staff and tools. AND a totally new business model. IF that’s not a reason for reluctance, I don’t know what is.

Every manufacturer and service provider has to look at their business model and decide what business they are in. Is everything software centric? One of the interesting things that came out of the discussion is while most technology is Applications, Servers, Networks and Storage, there is still a need for dedicated control surfaces for certain production operations. Large scale productions cannot be switched or mixed on a tablet. Slo-Mo for instant replay is not practical on a tablet or with a mouse. Shading a camera from a touch screen probably won’t work well.

This doesn’t change the core argument. The business mode in each of the service areas has changed significantly and substantially. Cloud is a great term, but what is the business model and what impact does it have on the current business model that it is theoretically changing.

The consumer is overwhelmed with buzzwords to convince them to upgrade a perfectly good TV/Display with one that can show something that can’t be delivered.

Production and broadcast managers face a bewildering new vocabulary as systems move to IP-centric solutions. Image: Belltechlogix.

Production and broadcast managers face a bewildering new vocabulary as systems move to IP-centric solutions. Image: Belltechlogix.

Producers are unwilling to spend more to use the newest technology if that’s what is needed to reach the viewer. The changing landscape of distribution platforms complicates production.

Whether it’s OTA, OTT, VOD, Cable, Satellite and IPTV (I know there are others) both the service models and business models are changing.

Content will always be king, but what it is, how it’s produced, how it’s delivered and its value to the consumer and advertiser has changed. New business models.

All this can be attributed to the move to IP and file based media. No wonder there’s a reluctance to get there all the way. As the technology transitions to software and commodity hardware how much support in time, product and resources does a manufacturer need to maintain?

Sunsetting and obsoleting products and technologies has been difficult at each transition, analog to digital first generation then SDI, then HD-SDI. IP – WOW!! Tape to File – OMG.

There are changes in processes, workflows and new skill sets and knowledge. All this translates to new business and service models.

It’s no wonder that there is considerable interest in slowing things down a bit. Unfortunately that’s not a reality. So how do we sort this one out?   

Will traditional broadcast and production gear even look the same in five or 10 years? Image: prodigious, Wichita State production studio.

Will traditional broadcast and production gear even look the same in five or 10 years? Image: prodigious, Wichita State production studio.

First is to reduce the confusion as we complete the transition. Let’s avoid past errors in making the broadcast and production industry choose sides in a format war. What about a grand summit bringing all the proposed solutions together to discuss and review and maybe pull the best from each and settle on ONE. That way the manufacturers and service providers can focus on their secret sauce and what the differentiator is between products not how the products communicate with each other. Transport was always agnostic to the production and broadcast formats. How about keeping it that way?

The industry can work together as they redefine their business and service models while being supportive to their client base. It will help reduce the confusion in the industry and promote the adoption of the next generation of media technologies.

Content production is about storytelling and technology is the enabler. Not the other way around.

There are many challenges to making sure IP provides the same quality and integrity of its predecessors. IP opens up new and exciting opportunities to create great content and stories.

Comments:

AIMS couldn’t agree more with the sentiment expressed in this article that we need ONE solution for interoperability and we applaud the “grand summit” approach.  I must point out there has already been one “grand summit” bringing all the proposed solutions together to discuss and review.  This grand summit was called VSF SVIP.  The result became VSF technical recommendations TR-04 and TR-03, which AIMS has embraced.  VSF has over 70 members and is represented by vendors and major broadcast networks alike.  Not all companies are currently publicly backing the results of the VSF “grand summit”, but there is a way forward.  Those who believe as Broadcast Bridge does that the “grand summit” approach is the way forward can get behind the results of the VSF recommendations.  Then the industry can coalesce around one set of common protocols.  AIMS is precisely about recognizing that a “grand summit” has occurred and that there was a conclusion.  We stand with open arms, inviting any and all companies to join in this approach to IP interoperability.

-Mike Cronk
Chairman, AIMS

February 5th 2016 @ 22:47 by Mike Cronk

We at EVS agree with Mike’s comments, and the road towards the future enabled by IP production for the next generation.  It is terrific to see so many vendors are agreeing to reinforce the development of standards, and to join together to promote the awareness of those forward looking standards which allows every vendor in the AIMS Alliance, and those who are not, to build upon a common set of protocols to establish the future.  We hope to reinforce the point that the industry should neither be scared by IP, nor feel forced into IP before their business models make sense.  Lets take the production and media industry to the next chapter together with an open approach as AIMS, and the VSF initiated proposals for standardization are formalized.

February 6th 2016 @ 17:27 by James Stellpflug

I’m all for a single standard as IP moves into broadcasting. But it’s kind of ironic that AIMS is cheering the idea of a single IP standard while further down the same page, Broadcast Bridge has releases from the ASPEN group talking about how many companies have joined their organization. So now we’ll have AIMS versus ASPEN as the new version of Beta vs VHS or should I say Blu-Ray vs HD-DVD?

Don’t misunderstand me, I applaud the efforts of everyone involved in trying to get us to a single IP standard. Multiple flavors of DTV did nobody any favors and in my view, kept the technology from being adopted sooner. Let’s not repeat history here. Don’t get the old-school attitude about standards conversion; as in, We’re the standard, you do the conversion.

AIMS and ASPEN need to be meeting regularly in order to find the common ground between them where broadcast IP is concerned. Both groups are using SMPTE standards as their base. Figure out an approach that everyone can live with. This needs to be in place sooner rather than later. Otherwise, Video over IP is going to be too little, too late. The opportunity to move the industry forward is too great. Let’s not blow it over mild differences of opinion.

These comments are strictly my own opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of my station, station management, or any other organization.

Mike Snyder

February 8th 2016 @ 22:29 by Mike Snyder

I couldn’t agree more.  Did you see my article “AIMS versus ASPEN – The Next Format Battleground”  The transition to digital from analog was not pretty.  Then 36 flavors of HD,  Shouldn’t learn from history?

Gary Olson

February 10th 2016 @ 15:25 by Gary Olson

Yes… we should learn from history…There must be one IP standard and should not argue on this.. only we should leave the space for the argument on, “how to solve the issues of new standard with legacy technology”...

March 3rd 2016 @ 12:00 by Ramesh Tale

So, are you saying the industry needs to solve new technology issues with “...legacy technology…”? No, that can’t be done.

Just because we’ve done something one way doesn’t mean that going forward, we need to do it the same way. Much like the move from analog to digital, new solutions are required in an IP-centric world.

Here are just two of many The Broadcast Bridge articles that address the issues surrounding IP standards.

AIMS versus ASPEN – The Next Format Battleground?

To IP or Not to IP – That is the question!

Stay tuned, The Broadcast Bridge will keep readers up-to-date on implementing IP standards and technology.
Editor

March 3rd 2016 @ 17:00 by Brad Dick Editor

That means you are supporting different groups/Camps and their different standard… Interoperabilty is the answer for this ? Why required Format battleground ? it may be correct in commercial angle..but not in favor of Broadcast industry….

March 4th 2016 @ 05:37 by Ramesh Tale
Let us know what you think…

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