NAB 2011: Nevermind the buzzwords…
The dry air of Vegas is thick with buzzwords each year at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) trade show. 2011 was no exceptions with booths screaming workflow, brochures urging collaboration, and IP and The Cloud everywhere you look.
Behind some of those buzzwords and demonstrations are serious industry trends, however, so here’s my take on the major trends in broadcast technology based on my visit a few weeks ago. 2011, for me, was about:
- Growing dominance of IP broadcast – There have been vendors aimed at the IP broadcast market, rather than traditional broadcast delivery for years, but in 2011, IP suddenly seemed to make up a sizable proportion at the show. Everyone knows IP is eventually the way we will go, but there seems to be a missing link between the traditional broadcast world and IPTV. The vendors don’t always help – more and more they live solely in the IP world. Conversations trying convince DVB Cable operators that they really ought to be delivering via IP despite the legacy set top boxes in the field do not tend to get very far.
- Delivery to non-linear platforms – The operational challenges of managing multiple formats of assets and metadata was the major topic vendors concentrated on at NAB. It was all about managing content from a single source out to as many different platforms as possible – the ingest once and reuse again and again mantra is not new. This year, many of the traditional traffic and scheduling systems were offering functionality to support non-linear delivery as part of their demonstrations and for the most part, these were based on actual customer requirements rather than proof of concepts. Three major groups of vendors are converging on the On Demand operations space – traditional traffic and scheduling companies, online CMS companies, and platform delivery companies. Operators need to pick and choose if they want a solution to manage content from acquisition through to on demand distribution. The illusive single content management platform for linear and non-linear (including online and mobile) still doesn’t seem to exist.
- Workflow (the old favorite!) – A growing number of vendors have incorporated 3rd party workflow engines into their products to enable customers to edit and maintain their own business processes. Microsoft Windows Workflow Foundation appears to be the most common engine in the market today. Other broadcast technology vendors, have opted to develop their own workflow engine which they claim is more tightly integrated with their core functionality. It is a welcome development in the industry and promises to reduce ongoing development costs for broadcasters and keep products more relevant for longer as operations change.
- The cloud (as ever, but more so) – The cloud has been a buzz word within the industry for several years, but NAB 2011 was the first time that so many products on offer as SaaS. This is particularly true for content processing platforms such as those offered by Thought Equity Motion, Tata, and Prime Focus. Are content owners at last embracing the reduced fixed costs associated with having content stored, edited, and distributed from a hosted service? To help those content owners who prefer a local option, many of the vendors were offering a hybrid solution with only parts of the service hosted in the cloud. As with all cloud based solutions, it makes a compelling business case today, but how easy is it to reverse their decision and bring these functions back in house or to give them to another service partner.