Audio Global Viewpoint – September 2020

Webinar Futures

Despite the proliferation of webinars that seem to be trying to replace social interaction, I believe there is definitely a future for the webinar when used in the right context.

As an industry, we’re pushing technology to its limits, especially if you consider our work with IP, machine learning, cloud computing and remote operations. This is nothing new as broadcasting has been finding the technology-line and crossing it since the first electronic broadcasting trials back in the 1930’s. What seems to have changed is the speed with which we’re now expected to learn the new technology, integrate it and make it work.

Even in the days of domestic video recorders, life seemed much slower. If you needed information then we read books, vendor white papers and even watched training videos. Before the internet was available as a learning resource, I remember telephoning vendors and asking them to fax information about their products as this was much faster than sending the information in the post!

With the benefit of hindsight, I don’t think life was slower, we just had fewer learning-options and there was less development resource we could draw on. In turn, this often led to great frustration when trying to make things work. Just like Ned Soseman highlighted in his article Live TV Karma Rules when things don’t work; “we, became me”. I’m sure every engineer has stories about trying to get hold of a vendor for help at midnight on a Sunday as they watch the clock accelerating to transmission time.

One of the great advantages of moving to IP and COTS is that we can take advantage of the innovation in other industries. For example, financial trading has had a big impact in driving large amounts of information around datacenters with incredibly low latency. We can and are leveraging these advances so that we can take advantage of the flexibility and scalability that IP and COTS offers.

However, even when using IT type technologies, broadcast television is still a niche industry. High availability is a given and the nature of our advertising model places ever increasing demands on reliability. We can’t rebroadcast the live ads in the Super Bowl! Our business model demands that we do things differently. They may only be small workflow differences, but they’re significant.

There is an incredible amount of information available to us in any of the COT, IP and machine-learning disciplines, but not much of it is relevant to broadcast television. This is where I think webinars can be valuable. I believe, webinars that are highly technical and applicable to broadcast television are powerful beyond our wildest dreams. But it seems to me that webinars have gravitated towards sales and this is why they’re not getting the traction they deserve, and we hear phrases like “death by webinar”.

Understanding the niche broadcast industry is difficult, engineers and technologists need all the help they can get, and the right webinar with highly relevant technical content can provide this.

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