Services Global Viewpoint – September 2022

IBC Leading IP

IBC was a great success with well represented vendors and bustling halls. Admittedly the attendee numbers were reduced, and some halls were a little compressed. But the show had the IBC vibe and it’s fantastic to see the broadcast community returning to some normality, albeit with massive technological changes.

Although I’m regularly told that IP is now a done deal, the reality is somewhat more complex. IP isn’t for everybody and there are still a large number of broadcasters who are content with their SDI systems. And there are an equally high number of vendors still supporting SDI and not showing any sign of waning. But it’s worth remembering that IP isn’t just an abstracted transport stream, it’s also an enabling technology.

It seemed as I turned every IBC corner somebody was pushing cloud-as-an-infrastructure. This sounds very exciting, and some vendors claim to be making massive inroads into providing low latency cloud infrastructures, even for live production.

To me, the playout side of cloud seems to be well established, especially if you can negate the egress costs by keeping content in the cloud. Delivering directly to mobile devices and smart TVs over the internet is clearly a bonus for business operators. But there are some interesting consequences of the “watch what I want, where I want, and how I want” model. By providing this viewing mechanism we’ve essentially removed the element of time from the business model, and this is where the proverbial wheels start to come off the bus.

One vendor CEO noted that not all content is produced at the same cost. For example, a series of Game of Thrones is going to be significantly more expensive than a fly-on-the-wall documentary. So, this implies a variable cost to the streaming provider, unfortunately, the streaming model only allows for a fixed cost to the viewer. Traditional linear broadcasters have taken advantage of the time element as they can charge a premium for Ads during optimum viewing times, such as a Saturday evening. When you make the vast majority of your content available at any time, this element of charging a premium for Ads is negated. It would appear broadcasters understand their business models and audiences a lot more than some would like us to believe!

IPMX seems to be making a name for itself and IBC was a showground for its continuing involvement in the broadcast community. I must confess, I’m still a little skeptical about using the acronym ProAV next to Broadcast, however, there are some good engineering reasons to use ProAV technology, especially when it has been derived from broadcast standards. ST2110 certainly delivers on low latency for broadcast infrastructures, but not everybody within a broadcast facility needs an ST2110 feed. For example, producers watching the studio output in their offices will only need a compressed proxy feed, and this is where IPMX excels as it is a derivative of ST2110 – or at least, that’s what I’m led to believe.

I’m a great believer in sharing information and SMPTE have excelled in this since they released their first specifications. Reassuringly, IPMX is an open standard protocol where the barrier to entry for providing high value solutions is only limited by our own imaginations, and we’re not limited to black-boxes with just inputs and outputs on them where the underlying operation is hidden from us.

IBC is certainly helping broadcasters understand the power of IP, not just as a new solution, but as an entirely new enabling technology, and this is empowering our collective imagination to open a whole new level of innovation.