IBC365 asks some key vendors for their predictions for 2021, following a tough year for the industry
As 2021 gets underway, the industry puts behind it a challenging 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic transformed the way media and entertainment companies worked to produce new content. IBC365 spoke to top executives at some of the industry’s biggest vendors to ask what they think will happen in 2021.
We asked them three key questions: What are their major predictions for 2021? What lessons will they take from 2020? And what should the industry expect from their companies over the next 12 months?
David Ross, CEO, Ross Video
I’m hoping 2021 will be like 2020 but in reverse. We’ll have more of the same for half to three quarters of the year and then a return to somewhat normal in many geographies and markets near the end of the year. Projections from economists are overwhelmingly predicting a dramatic bounce back to world economies, which would be nice indeed.
From 2020, we learned that we can often work from home and do our jobs virtually. We can close deals without flights, hotels and expensive dinners. We can provide training and commissioning at far lower costs. We can have four meetings on four continents in two hours and then walk our dog. We can do so much more while leaving a fraction of the carbon footprint.
In the coming year, we will be hiring over 200 new employees throughout the year, with an expected final count of almost 1,100 staff globally. As a result, you will see a record number of major product introductions, an increased emphasis on providing the very diverse customers and markets we support with a more unique and tailored Ross experience, and a big push on further enhancing our already industry-leading tech support and customer service.
Tim Shoulders, CEO and president, Grass Valley
In 2021, we’ll see a gradual return to normalcy as the height of the Covid pandemic fades into the distance. As vaccines become more widely available, we’ll see a slow unfolding of travel restrictions and our customers over time, will become more interested in returning to more traditional face-to-face interactions. And I’m quite looking forward to that. I think, as humans, we’re social animals, and we need to see each other and collaborate with one another and form those bonds. It’ll be a gradual shift, but I’m quite looking forward to the end markets that both us and our customers support, like live sports, returning to having spectators in the stands, cheering on their teams - that’ll be a tremendous relief to us all.
In 2020, we actually had a very productive year, in terms of product launches. And as we look at the rest of our portfolio, we have more innovation to come in our control and monitoring solution GV Orbit. Also, all roads lead to the Grass Valley Media Universe for us. We’ll continue to add features and functionality into GV AMPP. We’ll also add applications in GV AMPP, that allow our customers to have more workflows at their fingertips.
“We expect to see more sports leagues invest more heavily in OTT platforms so they can explore new and innovative ways to engage with fans,” Ariff Sidi, Verizon
The most important one, I think, are advancements we’re going to make on the live production side, including cloud-based replay and switching that can be used at larger events. With the type of trust that you have in Grass Valley physical equipment, we’re going to build cloud tools that you can have that same trust in that they’ll get the job done with a level of excellence that nobody can compete with. So that’s what 2021 looks like for us - more innovation, more innovation and even more innovation. And we’ll continue to bring all of our workflow knowledge to the cloud, and build a robust ecosystem of third party partners and service providers to also bring solutions to our customers on that platform.
Steve Reynolds, president, Imagine Communications
Adaptive audience fulfilment and new ways to optimise advertising revenues; the migration to the cloud; software-centric systems and the replacement of traditional hardware with COTS platforms will continue to thrive and dominate the industry into 2021 and beyond.
The value of the cloud is now becoming clearer, and enterprises are looking towards live production in the cloud as well as delivery. Adding in new enabling technologies like the JPEG XS codec enables the potential for low-latency, highly reactive cloud-based production to playout workflows. When you couple performance levels similar to on-premises hardware with the inherent scalability of the cloud, you have the potential for agile infrastructures which advance quality and creativity while controlling costs.
I think we will also see a change in the nature of media technology implementation. Broadcasters have grown up with a more conservative approach, taking years to specify, identify and build a solution which would then have an unchanged life of seven or 10 years. 2020 has proven that sometimes you just have to grab something and run with it. The proof points established in 2020 around using fully virtualised systems and leveraging public cloud help to guide the industry towards a more agile approach and faster time-to-market for new channels and services.
At the heart of our business, we will ensure our customers are supported with practical and cost-effective ways to include cloud services into media architectures. Imagine was the pioneer of software-defined architectures which are enabled by IP communications. Cloud services are the ultimate manifestation of this, providing almost infinite scalability and agility, with intelligent automation built in.
Imagine will continue the development of new and improved products and systems that we are renowned for. Responsive to industry changes, 2021 will see more developments in IP solutions, heightened adoption of automation, and Imagine supporting broadcasters to sell audiences across all of their distribution platforms to aggregate cross-platform experiences and audiences ― as well as building technologies that have a minimal impact on our planet and its energy resources.
Yvonne Monterroso, director of product management, Dejero
One thing for sure is that remote operations will continue into 2021 and beyond with many broadcasters realising that using Dejero makes for an efficient way to produce live content with low latency.
We expect that broadcasters and content creators will look to become reliant on all-IP solutions with a focus on flawless connectivity as a means of future-proofing workflows.
The broadcast and production industry’s confidence has grown this year with so many success stories in deploying technologies live over IP without lag or technical glitches. Business continuity, risk mitigation, and streamlined adoption to shift live video production to locations outside of the studio with robust connectivity at the core will become a key focus next year. We will see more content being created during live events around the world and from remote locations using Dejero technology; this will gain momentum into 2021 and 2022 be that overcoming a pandemic or a natural disaster.
The Covid-19 pandemic was a disruption broadcasters weren’t planning for but were able to quickly adapt to. The latest technology has made talent cueing, production, confidence monitoring, and teleprompting available remotely, while many ‘broadcast from home’. We’ve seen successful remote operations output high-quality content from places not previously attempted. This happened almost overnight and the flexibility of these workflows will become the foundation for future practices.
In terms of news broadcasting, technology that delivers low latency return video teleprompting has become crucial this year. The ability to deliver precisely-timed and captivating live content under these circumstances has been an exercise in ingenuity, creativity, and flexibility. Provision for transmitting high-quality broadcasts from people’s homes will continue to be a priority for news channels in the coming year.
The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of new technologies and transformed future workflows into the workflows of today. Early 2021, Dejero will be able to further streamline and simplify the at-home broadcast experience for anchors and reporters continuing to work outside of the studio. We will continue to work to innovate our existing solutions with the customer in mind.
Ariff Sidi, general manager and chief product officer, Verizon Media
2020 accelerated many trends, such as real-time streaming and interactivity, and we expect to see a continuation of these trends in 2021. Real-time streaming is essential for live sports broadcasters wanting to introduce greater interactivity and boost fan engagement. The pandemic increased demand for more interactive features from live sports broadcasters wanting to recreate the matchday experience for fans streaming the game at home. Even as fans start being let back into stadiums, as we’re seeing in the English Premier League, interactive features will continue to be important to sports broadcasters looking for ways to boost fan engagement and revenues.
“Over the past year, we’ve seen sports leagues have to pivot their entire businesses away from in-stadium fans to their digital offerings. We expect to see more sports leagues invest more heavily in OTT platforms so they can explore new and innovative ways to engage with fans.
We work with a number of large broadcasters. Our number one priority is to continue expanding our network and expanding our video streaming quality through enhanced protocols and formats like 4K and HDR. We’ll also continue to deliver a television-like experience over the top on the public internet. Additionally, we’ll be developing new video solutions to deliver real-time video at scale, provide the ability for fans to personalize their viewing experience, and utilise the edge compute capabilities of our global network to improve performance, scale and enrich the consumer experience.
Matt McConnell, CEO, Mediakind
First and foremost, the media industry will continue to aggressively shift to D2C models of content distribution. A significant report conducted by MediaKind in December 2020 found that sports-rights holders now see D2C as an increasingly important element in their media strategies. I think we’re going to see this continue to extend beyond just sports.
The consolidation of media technology providers will also accelerate next year. By having multiple providers and a ‘best of breed approach,’ you introduce many touchpoints and integration points, making deployments far slower and more complex. An end-to-end offering answers that challenge and reduces the risk of faults. We’re going to see a lot more ‘build, buy, acquire, and partner’ in 2021 as providers look to tighten the media ecosystem and help customers drive their businesses.
The industry will see broadcasters and content owners accelerate their migration to cloud-native workflows. As a result, this will drive tighter integration and shorten existing feedback loops and obstacles in the media value chain. Targeted advertising models will continue to close the gap between viewership and ad-spend, as OTT distribution starts to overtake linear models.
Finally, the media industry will rebound as Covid-19 wanes and corporate investment in infrastructure returns.
Today, and historically, MediaKind has played predominantly in the operator space. I think the challenges faced by that segment are different from the challenges faced by content owners. MediaKind will continue supporting and innovating for our existing base while also investing in new markets. Expect to see new faces, larger investments in our technologies, and new media processing functions to help us address these new segments and opportunities.
Malik Khan, executive chairman and co-founder, LTN Global
This year will see the further acceleration of some key trends; the transition to a more widely adopted remote production model, benefiting from cost and resource efficiencies. Broadcast industry players will increasingly move from high-cost, resource-heavy on-site production to centralised, variable-cost remote production models. Further, activating virtual fan engagement will be a key element of live events to deliver exciting experiences. Virtual aspects will be combined with physical audience presence when this is allowed to create hybrid experiences.
Satellite transport networks have traditionally been used for their reliability and reach. However, the one-to-many delivery model is unable to keep up with the demand for greater regionalization of content and the variety of emerging distribution channels. IP distribution compensates for these limitations, making it possible to deliver high-quality and regionalized video and audio from and to any location and destination. There is also a major improvement in cost economics, as well as better control and monitoring of the received signal at the destinations.
The growth of addressable advertising is another trend for 2021. Ad revenue has been suffering a steady decline for years. Covid-19 has brought live sports events to a halt, creating further pressures on ad spend. Addressable advertising can revolutionize the business model broadcasters, and media operators have relied on for decades, achieving between 20% and 30% uplift on ad rates.
Traditional content distribution models relied on physical infrastructure and CAPEX. In 2021, the broadcasting industry will be increasingly transitioning to the cloud to send and distribute broadcast-quality video feeds in any format. This will create opportunities across the board to expand into further markets and increase revenue.
Creating a culture of change and enabling businesses to become more agile and responsive to current market requirements are among the most important lessons from this past year. The media industry has gone through hardship but has proved that it can adapt quickly to recover. Luckily, there are technological solutions that can support the industry’s transformation.
For LTN Global, we will continue to lead the broadcasting industry transformation by providing innovative and integrated cloud and IP-based solutions that unify the video chain. We will continue expanding our LTN Global Ecosystem to address the industry’s challenges and offer our customers a bridge to the future. Customers will be able to access our solutions on an integrated end-to-end service basis or on a more modular basis, depending on their needs. We will continue to work with customers’ own infrastructure, as well as other third party vendors chosen by our customers. Even though we have developed a large portfolio of patented technologies, our main focus has been, and will remain, on solving customer problems and not on any specific technology.
Chris Smeeton, director, Argosy
Despite the first vaccinations being rolled out in the UK, we recognise that we operate in a global economy and until such time that vaccinations are available across all continents, there will continue to be less movement between countries. Tradeshows who open their doors in 2021 are bound to see less exhibitors and visitors – especially as many manufacturers have fallen back on the use of virtual tradeshows, webinars and remote training. For the foreseeable future, Argosy will continue to implement remote working for our staff and our external stakeholders.
From 2020, we’ve learned that being flexible to changing demands on the business, be it financial, resource-related or organisational is key to its survival. Ways of working, financial budgets and work flows and processes will all have to be flexible and will have more contingency built in.
In 2021, we’ll continue to serve our global customer base and stock solutions in the places that need them most. We’ll continue build partnerships with key manufacturers with the new needs of broadcasters in mind. We’ll also have a greater online presence, online video marketing, plus a new website and a new electronic product catalogue.