2017 has certainly been a packed year, with a number of interesting projects, including an end-to-end IP, end-to-end IT broadcast, and a slew of events.
For quite some time, we have been championing the merits and feasibility of IP for contribution. Whilst many in the industry are still hanging back, unsure it is quite there yet, we have already proven that it is. This year, things started to take off in a big way, with many others embracing the change. This was obvious walking around the halls at IBC, but in particular, this was noticeable from the Broadcast Tech IP Summit in October. Whilst there was a room full of traditional broadcasters and a focus on whether IP is feasible, it was obvious that the rhetoric has shifted somewhat over recent months, even in that traditional broadcast space. Most broadcasters are looking to go IP even if they are not quite there yet.
From our point of view, we have worked on quite a few interesting projects. This includes working with MSTV Live Broadcasting, which provides live coverage of a wide range of sports events across Europe. Uniquely, this small company is providing these feeds using a satellite service designed for newsgathering and an IP connection. Using a combination of low cost, high quality tools, MSTV is able to ensure a compelling experience for its entire, growing, viewer base.
2017 also saw the completion of a longterm project we have been working on for Sky in the UK. We have, of course, been working with Sky for some time and it has been contributing a number of feeds over IP and using our encoders. However, this project went beyond all of that and saw the creation of an all IP, all IT master control facility. It really is using entirely off-the-shelf standard IT hardware. What is more, Sky is now using it on a daily basis to contribute live news coverage. As you can imagine, this was a massive project and involved a number of vendors. We already know that IP brings scalability, flexibility, and massive cost efficiencies, especially if you use standard off-the-shelf equipment. Above all, this project proves that IP is entirely possible and reliable.
All that said, we are not quite there yet, but I expect things to develop further as we move into 2018. These early examples will pave the way and I believe we will see many more developments throughout 2018. This will include more broadcasters switching to IP for contribution feeds and I think we will likely see more announcements of plans to build all IP facilities. I also believe we will start to see more and more IP OB trucks being used in the field. Current IP OB trucks have some legacy kit inside too. I believe over the coming months more of that will be replaced with IP technology.
We will in particular see some interesting innovations in IP for remote production. This is where IP connectivity is good enough to backhaul all traffic over an IP network to a facility, which naturally saves a great deal on travel expenses. Following on from that, we will begin to see the emergence of interactive personalised live events. Currently broadcasters sending feeds over the web simply show the same thing that is on TV, but only with 60 second delay, because it is on the web. However, IP opens up the opportunity to create a much more immersive experience as broadcasters now have more than the single world feed. We will start to see these versions become much more interesting and interactive, giving consumers a real reason for watching the web versions vs on the TV.
The regulators will face increasing pressure to adapt to new contribution and distribution methods. Current regulation simply doesn’t work for modern IP-based workflows. Take for example the necessary (due to regulation) CRC, that burns your CPU but serves absolutely no purpose for IP. As IP takes off over the coming months, regulators will need to rethink how this is done in order to stay relevant and keep the industry standardised.
So, whilst 2017 was the year of (almost) IP with a few broadcasters dipping their toes in the water, I expect 2018 may turn out to be the year we actually begin to see a shift, in mindsets and workflows.