A look back at IBC 2017

I heard it rained at IBC 2017, but that is nothing new. The Beach was recently renovated, now supporting more parties. But, as far as big technology announcements, the show was quiet.

Leading up to IBC I expressed my high hopes for further advancement of several initiatives.Alas, they were only hopes, or as my sister – in law says, “If beggars made wishes then horses would fly”!I actually never understood what she meant.

Back to IBC.At the end of IBC, SMPTE quietly announced the approval of parts of SMPTE –ST-2110.And, it seems, none of the approximately 50 vendors participating in the IP Interoperability Pavilion announced new ST-2110-based products.

New formats showcased

I expected more news about developments on HEVC, UHD, HDR, 4K and 8K. Just before IBC Adobe announced the company is phasing out Flash, so I expected some chatter on what that means to both next generation streaming and the interim transition.

The issue of transitioning to HTML5 or if it will be cross platform compatible remains unanswered. HTML5 is not yet a complete specification and future browsers may or may not support some of the features HTML5 can provide. Even worse, legacy browsers may have no support at all for newer features introduced with HTML5. What should content websites do? Crickets is all I hear.

While it rained in Amsterdam, not much cloud in the exhibit halls.

Plenty of clouds in Amsterdam, the real ones outside and technology versions inside the IBC exhibit halls.

Plenty of clouds in Amsterdam, the real ones outside and technology versions inside the IBC exhibit halls.

More M&A

One aspect of this show was the additional company consolidation that has taken place since NAB 2017. Typically the IBC show is where attendees get to see if promises made at NAB were kept or at least on track. This year’s show theme focused more on what companies were purchased and by who and the prerequisite issue, what does that mean to the acquired company’s customers.All of this musical chairs made finding certain products, exhibited under a new banner, more difficult.

Passing the buck on support

Company acquisition often exacerbates the after-the-sale support issue. Expecting the new owners to properly support products from a previous vendor can be challenging. And, even if there has been no company change, the support issues that can arise when multiple vendors are involved in a packaged solution may be frustrating.

One of my clients purchased a software product and the vendor included all third party hardware and software to deliver a fully-integrated solution. Prior to the sale, the primary vendor bought a competitor to the product they actually sold my client. Under the SLA the vendor was theoretically going to provide support.Let’s see how well that theory works.

Software licensing is becoming a larger issue as customers face required updates from multiple companies. Image Samsung.

Software licensing is becoming a larger issue as customers face required updates from multiple companies. Image Samsung.

So far the main vendor told the customer they aren’t supporting the hardware, the customer needs a separate SLA with each vendor. For the client, this has been a pretty consistent challenge as one of the hardware devices has consistent issues.

Moving back to consolidation.There are multiple facets to this. From a product perspective, there is the one stop shopping or one throat to choke philosophy. What if a vendor sells a package solution to the broadcaster, but then won’t guarantee full interoperability and ease of operation? It is often the case that a vendor may have excelled in one product family and less so in the others.

There’s another challenge that comes with consolidation, development and support.Support is very silo’ed these days.Everyone one is a product specialist and there are very few full system support folks.Each time there’s a consolidation, the acquirer typically downsizes the support team from the acquiree.

One of the statements out of IBC on the IP front was to expect exciting things at NAB NY and even more at NAB 2018. New IP products and giving those that didn’t get to IBC a chance to see the IP Pavilion in person.

I would have thought with the upcoming Olympics and the statement from NHK that they there will only be 8K production from OBS (Olympic Broadcast Service) that there would be a lot of 8K chatter.That didn’t appear to the case either, although I did hear about the 8K theatre with supposed looked great.

From this consultant’s perspective, the broadcast and production industry seems to spend more time developing new formats than it does figuring out how it all works together. The InterOp events don’t include end users, just vendors figuring out how to play nicely together. These are not real-world environments.

Formats can become like standards, we have to support too many of them.

Formats can become like standards, we have to support too many of them.

What end-users want are road maps or touring road shows providing hands-on experiences with new technology and solutions. As we approach a critical juncture in the migration to all IP solutions, many engineers and managers are desperate for more education on solutions—not point solutions.

No piece of equipment works in a vacuum, it must connect to and communicate with other devices. Everyone involved in installing, maintaining and using these systems need help in understanding the intricacies of the solutions.

Many, if not most, of the large vendors scream“This industry needs more consolidation.” Sure, they want less competition. Users, on the other hand, seem to prefer multiple options when it comes to purchasing equipment and software.

Both groups recognize that fewer suppliers could mean that vendors might reduce the support offered after the sale. Yet, as technology and products become more complex, the need for good and proper support only grows.

Call centers and help desks are not the support I am speaking of. And the accelerated cycle of updates and version releases is even more confusing. I was told by one vendor that the client should request an update, however on that company’s website, the only way to get the update is by sending a note to [email protected] and under the SLA the customer is not allowed to perform the update/upgrade.

With another vendor, each time we call, we learn about another firmware release. This client has more than one device in use, so they need all of them to be updated at the same. But it doesn’t stop there. Many times there are third party devices that also have to be updated to maintain compatibility. Or worse, the third party device will not work properly with the other vendor’s firmware upgrade.

Things like this will keep consultants in business for a long time.

Stay tuned – AES and NAB NY are just around the corner.

Editor’s Note: Gary Olson has a book on IP technology, “Planning and Designing the IP Broadcast Facility – A New Puzzle to Solve”, which is available at bookstores and online.

Editor’s Note: Gary Olson has a book on IP technology, “Planning and Designing the IP Broadcast Facility – A New Puzzle to Solve”, which is available at bookstores and online.

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