Major UHD Adoption in Two Years and IP in Five Years

Significant investment in UHD infrastructure by broadcasters is more than two years away, according to a new survey organised by Imagine Communications. Its 2016 Focus Forward Technology Trends survey also found that nearly 90 percent of media companies have initiated the process of moving hardware- dependent operations into virtualized environments.

Nearly half of the 700 media professionals surveyed estimate that it will be more than two years before market demand is large enough to justify significant investment in UHD-based technologies.

The regions that expressed the most concern about the near-term market demand for UHD were Africa (64%) and Central America (60%). Only 39% of media professionals in South America and the Caribbean say that it will take more than two years for UHD to warrant significant investment. In terms of market segments, 55% of TV broadcasters believe sufficient UHD demand is more than two years away.

On the other side of the UHD adoption spectrum resides the 9% of respondents who believe that UHD is ready for prime time now or in the next six months. Respondents working for content distributors and post production houses, not surprisingly, most frequently indicated that demand for UHD is currently strong. While UHD is only now showing up in live broadcasts, the higher- resolution format has been used extensively in cinematic settings for more than a year.

The survey suggests that the industry has reached a consensus on the need to inject “unprecedented agility” into existing video production, playout and distribution operations to meet future demands and expand monetization opportunities.

More than 40% of broadcast professionals say they have transitioned from 25-100% of their operations to IP, according to the survey. The use of standards-based, non-proprietary products is viewed as the most important requirement of an SDI-to-IP hybrid environment, it suggests. Almost 45% of media professionals say they have transitioned at least 25% of operations to virtualized environments and nearly 75% of broadcast professionals say that a unified, omniplatform approach to ad management is Important or Very Important to the success of their businesses.

Roughly half of those surveyed indicate that cultural issues, such as acquiring new skill sets and increased integration into the organization’s IT practice, posed more of an obstacle than technology issues.

“This suggests that broadcasters and others should take into consideration the importance of change management and other personnel issues when mapping out an SDI-to-IP transition strategy,” states Imagine Communications. “A fact that often gets overlooked in conversations concerning the IP transition is that most media companies have already moved a portion of their operations to IT-based environments. The incorporation of any file-based operation into your workflows, including asset management or editing, is technically a step down the all-IP path.

“It is the propensity of media professionals to disregard file-based workflows as part of the IP transition that most likely accounts for the 22% of survey respondents who indicated that they have transitioned zero percent of their operations to IP. These survey findings enforce the fact that many broadcasters and other media companies strongly associate the move to IP with the processing, transport or playout of live/linear video and audio streams.”

Not so surprisingly, topping the list of concerns are Expense of Infrastructure Upgrade and Operational Disruptions, considerations that are historically associated with all technology transitions. Security risks were cited by 41% of respondents as a top concern. Somewhat of a surprise, only 33% of media professionals expressed apprehensiveness about Quality Degradation resulting from a transfer of operations to an IP-based infrastructure. This suggests a possible decrease in concern about performance-degrading latency in live programming environments.

41% of respondents estimate that their all-IP infrastructures will be completed or nearly completed in the 2-5 year timeframe, with 33% indicating that the span of the transition will stretch out 5-10 years. The fact that 94% of survey takers put a decade-long cap on the duration of the transition reflects widely held assumptions that media companies will transition, not in lockstep, but in accordance with numerous company-specific factors over a window of time consistent with most major technology evolutions and in line with traditional technology refresh cycles. 

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