One of the things we’ve mentioned several times on our blog is the fact that the pace of technological change is accelerating. But perhaps one of the key points we haven’t emphasised enough is that that acceleration is more pronounced in the broadcast industry than it is for many others. Which means that coping with it is that much more difficult
The reason is the steadily growing influence of the IT industries. For most of its life broadcast has operated in something of a walled garden featuring proprietary technology specifically designed to capture, process and distribute video signals. Technological progress therefore took place at the speed of its R&D departments.
The IT industry has driven a very large coach and horses through all that. Speaking at the IBC Conference earlier this year, Mohamed Abuagla, CTO at Al Jazeera, estimated that the combined R&D budget alone of the 11 IT companies exhibiting at the show was roughly five times the size of the entire broadcast industry itself.
If you will excuse the slightly mixed horse-drawn metaphors, the broadcast industry is now hitched to that wagon and has moved from a siloed speed of technological change that it governed itself to a society-wide one that is very much out of its control.
It’s no coincidence that the introduction of Ultra HD (UHD) is taking place at approximately double the speed of HD itself.
And this change is manifest throughout the chain; from the way that content is produced to the way that is it distributed and the way that it is consumed. To keep up with that pace of change, businesses must become increasingly agile.
What is business agility?
Definitions of business agility vary, but at their core is the concept that it enables organisations to rapidly and cost-effectively adapt to changes in the internal and external environment without destabilising the organisation as a result. As the informative explanation on the HR Zone website states, it can exhibit as a short term form of crisis response, but to be really effective it needs to be implemented at a cultural level across a company
Business agility is built on six main components: adaptive planning; speedy Time to Market; decoupling (i.e. the separation of business processes); speed of decision making; economic efficiency; and continual monitoring of internal and external conditions. To achieve it companies need to foster a culture of frequent self-organising interactions, constant sympathetic evolution, and even operate in a borderline region called the edge of chaos (these last concepts are borrowed from complexity science — with the usual caveats Wikipedia has more).
What’s more there is a pronounced synergism here with the cloud, especially when it comes to broadcast. We’ve talked about this at length here but in summary the cloud helps broadcasters achieve a faster Time to Market, can scale to handle workload spikes and helps to drive innovation through constant iterative experimentation. Indeed, some of the agility the modern broadcast business needs is almost impossible to achieve without significant cloud implementation.
Increasing incremental change
As an example, speaking on our IBC2015 panel, Reaching for the Cloud, Kiran Patel, Executive Product Manager Media Services at the BBC pointed out that, using the Corporation’s old video production system, the process of making changes and then debugging them took months. Not only has that time now been cut down to a week, but they can also make anything from 20-40 incremental changes in that time.
In a survey conducted by Marquis Media Partners earlier this year, 53% of senior television industry executives said that keeping up with the pace of change was an issue. As the nature of content and the way it is captured and produced changes; as shifts in consumer demand necessitate a constant stream of new services and features; as TV Everywhere transitions from being a Unique Selling Point to a minimum spec — from a novelty to a must-have; and as the true impact of being ‘Fast or Last’ percolates through the industry, that number looks set to increase.
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Main pic: ESTUDI M6/Shutterstock