The year ahead is guaranteed to be full of significant changes for the broadcast industry. The rapid rise of FAST channels, the maturity of cloud technology services, the rollout of IP-based systems, and the emergence of Artificial Intelligence assures that we’re all in for an exciting ride in the coming 12 months.

We spoke with Richard Waghorn the Director of Operations, Technology & Transformation at RTÉ, Adde Granberg the CTO of Swedish Television (SVT), and Roger Crothers the Head of Technology at BBC Wales to get a sense of their focus for 2024.

Primary goals

The three broadcasters are at different stages in their journeys toward next generation technologies, so their main goals for 2024 are very different.

Richard Waghorn portrait

Richard Waghorn

According to Waghorn, 2024 is going to be a very busy year for his technology organisation. “We will be working on implementing some very ambitious plans for the new strategy - RTÉ New Direction”, he said. “It will involve important strands of work spanning the technology across our production, distribution and business support functions so it’s hard to call a single initiative ‘primary.’”

Granberg is looking at a year of transformation, “We need to rebuild our IT architecture to get into distribution focussed production tools that I think will be the future for a broadcasting company like SVT,” he said.

Read more: Key Technology Success Strategies for 2024: Leadership, AI, and Sustainability

BBC Wales opened its state-of-the-art broadcast facility, Central Square, in 2020, which marked a significant change. Looking forward the major focus for Crothers is operational. “Maximise uptime,” he said. “Capital is in short supply so need to carefully prioritise investments to ’keep the lights on.’”

Biggest challenges: AI, Legacy and Patching

Hand in hand with big ambitions are big challenges. Addressing tightened budgets, assessing new technologies, managing change, and ensuring correct levels of support need to be addressed on a daily basis.


Adde Granberg

“I would say that it would be great to have a clear handle on our data strategy,” said Waghorn. “With advances in AI making the recent waves that it has, I think data and how we govern, generate, and utilise it will be very important going forward.”

Granberg acknowledges the ever-present financial constraints faced by technology organisations but is strongly focussed on the future. “Budget….yes, that’s a challenge,” he said. “But even bigger is to prepare SVT to go to software production instead of the legacy boxes we still have.”

With cutting-edge systems, come cutting-edge challenges. Crothers identified what BBC Wales is tackling in the coming year. “Getting to grips with the overheads of a software-based broadcast centre,” he said. “Patching, support and longevity of systems are all an issue.”

The impact of AI

Every day, the headlines are full of news about advances in AI and the impact it will have on the world. Broadcasting is not immune from the concerns, but there are reasons to be optimistic as well.

“AI, and specifically the recent advances in generative AI, bring opportunity and challenge in equal measure and we’ve been leading discussions and socialising ideas with colleagues from across RTÉ this year,” said Waghorn.

“There is no doubt that it will change the way we work, but exactly how remains to be seen. This may sound like I’m being vague, but plenty of questions around ethics, copyright, and the nature of work in our industry are currently going through judicial, legislative, or industrial relations processes. In the meantime, we will be spending our time doing some targeted projects with colleagues in RTÉ to get a better understanding of how to introduce some of these tools into RTÉ in a controlled and responsible manner.”

Granberg believes that AI will make life easier at SVT. “It will be a part of our everyday business, he said. “AI will be integrated in most software and make our life easier. And we will use it for transcription on air, Swedish to Swedish, and that will have a positive impact on our budgets.”

Crothers also is looking at the positive contributions AI can bring, particularly for the programme making process and dealing with the massive amount of media being generated today. “Definitely within the MAM domain,” he said. “Voice and facial recognition could significantly aid programme researchers.”

Balance between streaming and OTA

It feels as if a new streaming service or FAST channel is being launched every day. Traditional broadcasters are faced with embracing that approach in fear of becoming irrelevant. However, PSBs are also required to provide universal coverage, so OTA services are not going away any time soon.

“OTA is still a strong revenue source for RTÉ,” said Waghorn, “but there is no doubt that the focus is shifting towards streaming. Saorview is the free to air OTA DTT platform in Ireland, which covers close to 99% of the population in Ireland and has the largest household reach of any broadcast platform. Saorview is a key part of delivering our universality mandate as a public service organisation and it’s important that we protect it. We are working on ways to augment Saorview with OTT capabilities to ensure we can continue to deliver value for the people in Ireland. At the same time, we’re increasing investment in the RTÉ Player, which is now contributing about 6% of all RTÉ viewing hours.”

Granberg said the balance at SVT is moving more toward streaming, but sounded a note of caution, because of the significant number of new entrants in the area. “It’s more focus on streaming - maybe too much,” he said, “because that’s starting to be a commodity service.”

As with RTÉ, Crothers reported that BBC Wales is still weighted more towards OTA due to their public service obligations. “But we are putting more efforts into enhancing our streaming services,” he said. “And that is our strategic goal for the next 3-5 years.”

Recruiting and skills

Waghorn explained how both skills and market forces make finding the right people with the right skills hard work for RTÉ. “The biggest challenge for us is purely down to how the market works in Ireland,” he said. “The broadcast technology market in Ireland is very small. While it’s true the technology used in production and broadcast is converging with the broader IT industry through adoption of cloud and IP, we still run significant amount of legacy technology and will do for a good few years, so will need staff skilled in these. Where we are moving to more modern technologies or increasing ambition in the digital space, we increasingly find ourselves competing for talent with some of the tech giants who operate out of Ireland.”

The changing technology landscape is the challenge Granberg has identified for SVT. “My broadcast people need to adopt and accept software as the new way to produce,” he said. “As well as the maintenance people that support the boxes.”

Crothers has also encountered difficulty in the recruitment area.

“Suitably skilled engineering staff just don’t exist. Recent increases in pay bands may result in more applicants, but very few have the pre-requisite skills to meet our needs.”

“IP skills are our primary concern. There is also increasing need for skills in virtual platforms and integration of disparate broadcast/production systems”, he summarised.

The move to IP-based infrastructure

The scales have tipped, and the shift to IP-based infrastructure is now ‘when’ rather than ‘if.’ Some broadcasters, like BBC Wales, have fully made the transition, but older technologies are still in use.

“Our move to IP will be an evolution, not a revolution,” said Waghorn. “We are in the process of building out a flexible IP core network in our main production and distribution facility in Donnybrook, this will form the basis of our evolution to IP. We will be investing in production facilities in other parts of Ireland, and this will have to be carefully examined. At the moment the economics of the move to IP don’t add up yet, so there may be some life in SDI still.”

Roger Crothers

Roger Crothers

SVT will continue its transition to IP over the course of the next year. According to Granberg, they will be taking a future-focussed approach to the technology. “We will start to implement more IP in 2024, but not 2110 standards,” he said. “That’s not the future. We will look past that.”

With the move to Central Square, BBC Wales went all in on IP. “We have fully implemented IP at the core, based on SMTPE 2110,” said Crothers. “The move to IP has had some expected impacts but others which were not expected. Some of the big issues are the management overhead, increase in support contracts, longevity of components in the new infrastructure and lack of in-house skills to support.”

Cloud services

The broadcast industry has been extremely resistant to moving away from the traditional approach of working only with on-premises equipment, but that is beginning to change slightly. The general view is that cloud services are still not mature enough for core services, but there are certain areas that can make the shift.

“We are firmly in a hybrid / mixed model for very pragmatic reasons,” said Waghorn. “The cost of public cloud IAAS does not always stack up and we simply could not afford a full scale move to public cloud. We have moved some capabilities to SAAS offerings, where they make sense, and we will continue to take a pragmatic approach to these matters.”

SVT is not looking to outside suppliers for cloud services because of their PSB status. “I’m building my own cloud,” said Granberg, “so we can run our services independently from external providers. That’s because of our mission.”

Crothers said BBC Wales has adopted a hybrid approach as well. “Primarily around storage,” he said. “Cloud storage is mature and there are numerous use cases where this clearly meets our requirements. Hosted broadcast services are not yet mature and the complex interoperability between onsite & cloud systems makes it difficult. There are also some concerns about the latency introduced by public cloud so private cloud may be more attractive in the short to mid-term.”

The future

Some say that predicting the future is a fool’s errand, however, broadcast technology leaders tend to subscribe to Peter Drucker’s advice that.” The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

Read more: Tuned into tomorrow: Software-defined broadcast infrastructure