Jump is a B2B communications agency who provides bespoke PR, marketing and creative services to broadcast and media technology companies globally, from content acquisition to delivery to the home.

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Where are we with IP – is the dust settling?

This week members of the Jump team attended the first day of the TVB Europe-backed MediaTech 360 conference and master classes. It will come as little surprise that the morning was dominated by updates about where we are at with IP, then further discussions around that subject.

Before we get to the subject of IP though, the opening panel session took a broader view of the industry; a couple of points struck home. Firstly, the panel –  featuring speakers from Ernst & Young, IBM, Dell EMC and chaired by Jon Watts from research and strategy consultancy MTM – agreed that there’s noticeable fear in the market, with confidence a fickle thing. That is not only business confidence but consumer confidence too. And a lack of confidence means lack of spending. That led to the question: how is broadcast going to change going forwards? Or, how is it going to continue changing? We’ll come back to that shortly.

The second point that struck home was that in many ways, broadcast has not yet gone through the dramatic change and decline that print newspapers have suffered from, for example. Indeed, on a global scale pay-TV is generally still growing, albeit slowly, and TV still takes approximately 40 percent of the advertising market. But no one was pretending that web scale disrupters (Google et al) aren’t going to continue to change the video model, along with OTT providers of course. We’re going to see more consolidation and we are going to see fundamental changes to the way broadcasters – video providers more generally – structure and use the technologies that underpin their businesses.

These underlying shifts are not only about IP, they’re also about the cloud more generally, virtualisation, much greater use of metadata, business process management and also artificial intelligence. More of which another time.

A couple of days before the event, the latest issue of APB magazine popped through Jump HQ’s letterbox (think Buckingham Palace only bigger) and what was the headline? “Broadcasting Industry at IP Crossroads”. This reflected many of the morning’s discussions at the conference.  It would be fair to say that there were no definitive conclusions about where we are going to end up with IP or at what speed, but we are undoubtedly heading down that route. One cannot imagine that coming to a grinding halt and there being a long-term return to SDI.

But timescales will vary massively in terms of broadcasters moving across to it, that was very clear. While AIMS and SMPTE are working as fast as they can, and impressive progress has been made, most predict that it will be the end of the year before SMPTE 2110 is ready along with products that comply with it (SMPTE 2110 being the overriding IP interoperability standard). A recent survey of AIMS members revealed that over 70 percent of them claim that they will have compliant product ready by the end of 2017. In turn that will see the development of an IP product marketplace. And competition is of course good for prices.

A last point. A latter session highlighted that at the moment, deploying IP is still likely to be more expensive than SDI, though the figures shown indicated a difference of considerably less than 10 percent. One simple reason is that currently the vast majority of broadcast IP equipment is actually hybrid SDI/IP and that increases the cost.

At the end of the day we are still making essentially the same content from TV series to films, live news through sports and everywhere in between. It’s not the end result that’s really changing, but how we get to it.