WBU Forum 2016: Broadcasting Becomes Viewer-centric

Donald Res | Thu Nov 24 2016 | Industry insights

Panorama of old city Dubrovnik in Croatia

World Broadcasting Union - International Media Connectivity Group is a community of the technology participants involved in the broadcasting value chain (broadcasters, satellite and fibre optic carriers, transmission service providers). Cleeng was there, and I want to share my impressions and learnings from the event.

The WBU- IMCG is held twice a year, and this time the organizers have selected the beautiful Dubrovnik in Croatia as a host city.

WBU-IMCG’s mission is to identify, evaluate, educate and where appropriate implement solutions for all operational matters associated with transmission by any means and to any platform of video, audio, and broadcast-related data from any location where news, sports, special events and entertainment. The operational issues are associated with the transmissions, delivery of audio, video data using Internet Protocol (IP) and any media platforms.

In general, it was a great experience for me as I had the pleasure to be among some high profile delegates from global broadcasters, such as Turner, CBC, BBC and NHK.

How is broadcasting evolving?

WBU has it roots from the time that all communication was done over satellite and analogue broadcasting. It represented a governing body that keeps organisations around the world aligned on the standards and protocols used, among other operational things.

Being at the conference made me more aware that in the early days of TV, most innovation in this industry was funded and largely executed in-house, by public broadcasters like BBC and NHK. Commercial activity didn’t exist much at that time. They were also the one that funded the WBU. Still today the fundamentals are the same, but obviously their perspective and operational challenges have moved into completely different directions.

It's fair to say that a large part of the public broadcasters have always been very technical oriented. Basically their main challenges have been on how to get a reliable signal from point A (public event or journalist in the spot) to point B (control center and production), to point C (end-user screen). Since the invention of the TV, these have been the biggest challenges for them. We can freely say that TV has come from far and is now able to deliver a reliable signal in even the most isolated areas. However, it is clear that even with the current technology advancements, it hasn’t become easier for them to ensure a clean path from A>B>C due to increased user demands, technology fragmentation and increased security (piracy) treats on the way.

The industry needs a strategic change of course

It’s interesting to see how broadcasters now have to reinvent themselves in order to stay competitive. Innovation in TV technology is no longer driven by public broadcasters alone. And even more important, the broadcaster is no longer in the driving seat. They no longer decide what we watch. The end-user is. Today, the viewer decides on the channel, show and device to watch its content from. Strong brands with engaged communities and fans will win this game. The big challenge for those companies is to overcome the operational constraints.

It is worth noting that during panel discussions, as well as individual attendees I spoke with - many highly respected experts with amazing achievements in their fields - often left out the importance of this change.

In my view, the main challenge for the participants of the WBU is no longer to ensure a 100% reliable connection from A to B to C. The main challenge for every broadcaster nowadays is to find out how build and to nurture their communities. They need a bold, new strategic course and change of focus in order to stay relevant. The new viewer wants the video, live and on-demand, and on all the devices he/she possesses.

Did you know?
In Europe, there are 9068 TV channels, and 2508 on-demand portals (according to EBU)

We need to talk less about “how to fight piracy”, and more about "how to develop a community". It should be less about what is the next codec to be used. Instead, it should be more about how to smartly use Facebook and Google to reach our audiences. The world is rapidly changing - and major broadcasters need to move faster today, in order to keep their dominant positions.

Being at the conference made me humble at the same time as well. It made me realise better that still 80% of the world's population is not as connected as I am, and that most people around the world still watch their TV via a broadcast signal coming from satellites or large antennas.

To summarize, the future for broadcasting will be dynamic and it will be driven by new technology, new players breaking entry barriers and new business approaches. But we can not ignore the fact that those changes will happen with different pace, in the different parts of the world.

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