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.

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