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What lies in store for the broadcast industry in 2021?

By Olivier Suard, Vice-President of Marketing, Nevion

Wed 03, 02 2021

Olivier Suard, Vice-President of Marketing, Nevion

With vaccines rolling out for COVID-19 in many countries there are signs of light at the end of the tunnel at the start of 2021. In the broadcasting industry, 2020 saw five years of evolution crammed into a single year as a direct consequence of the pandemic.

In fact, broadcasting has been compelled to change more rapidly than in any other period in its almost 100-year history. Predicting exactly how things will play out this year is a challenge with broadcasters, service providers and vendors all rethinking where their new priorities lie. However, there are some things we can forecast with a relative degree of confidence. With that in mind, here’s what can be expected to impact broadcasting in the coming year.

New technology will drive new projects

Broadcasters were forced into survival mode when the pandemic caused the cancellation of almost all live sport for a period and complicated live production due to social distancing. The impact was felt strongly both financially and in terms of making broadcasting work in the new environment.

Practically all planned investments were put on hold as a result. The need for those investments hasn’t faded though, and as the COVID situation improves in 2021, the year may see a flood of new projects, particularly around the move to IP.

Vendors to go virtual

Despite the situation, many projects avoided cancellation or postponement in 2020. Several broadcasters saw the pandemic as an opportunity to embark on transformational projects at a time when they would cause minimum disruption to live production – as so many live events had been cancelled. Others had commitments which they could not circumvent, for example, moving premises.

To meet that demand, vendors have had to find new ways to deliver projects in a timely manner, with travel severely reduced. For example, virtual meetings, remote training, remote configuration and remote testing were among the new ways of delivering projects. Among these innovators, Nevion, has been able to deliver significant projects during 2020, aided by the fact that its key products are largely software based and therefore amenable to be managed remotely.

Even if the travel situation improves, this experience will be carried through into project deliveries in 2021 because of the positive impact these delivery methods have on project efficiency and effectiveness.

The rise of “from-home” production

Many shows had to be created from home last year – with both the contributors and production teams being home-based. Although the use of best effort technology, including office tools like Skype and Zoom for ingest and home-broadband network connectivity, kept shows on air, it resulted in a real degradation of production values (normally a key differentiator for broadcasters compared to other video content competing for eyeballs). Regrettably, some broadcast output was arguably of lower production quality than that of many professional vloggers.

However, “from-home” production (distinct from “at home” production, i.e. traditional remote production) will remain in broadcasters’ toolkits even when the situation improves, but they will be looking to the industry in 2021 to start improving its production values. Exploring the use of alternative broadband connectivity (including potentially 5G) and orchestration across locations including homes will be one part of this multifaceted task.

Cloud and 5G

In 2021, the use of Cloud in live production will be the next step in Cloud technology’s steady movement upstream in recent years, from distribution to playout and increasingly into the MCR, Small scale productions can already be done in the Cloud – indeed Nevion’s parent company Sony offers virtual production solutions using up to six camera sources, professional quality switching and reliable streaming. Initiatives like the VSF’s Ground-Cloud-Cloud-Ground (GCCG) and AWS’s Cloud Digital Interface (CDI) are laying the groundwork for larger productions with a multi-vendor soft-eco-system.

5G is also generating a lot of excitement. At present though, it’s only 4G on steroids. The real game-changer for live broadcast production will be when service providers offer QoS through guaranteed bandwidth, and it remains to be seen if this will happen in 2021.

More industry consolidations

Consolidation amongst vendors has been a long-standing trend, but in recent years the need for solutions with broad footprints has accelerated that process. For example, Sony’s acquisition of Nevion in 2020 is part of that shift.

On top of this, the Covid-19 pandemic has made consolidation even more pivotal due to its impact on the finances of vendors of all sizes. As we move further in 2021 there will no doubt be further developments in this area.

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