The CTO’s roadmap: Building tomorrow’s broadcasters

A slew of new technologies and a reduced refresh cycle has had a profound effect on Chief Technology Officers’ list of priorities.

Broadcast CTOs are facing a rate of technological change that is unprecedented. Just as the industry heaved a collective sigh and thought it could take a much-deserved rest after digital switchover, the move to HD, and file-based production; it had to leap into action, developing strategies to address UHD, HDR, IP, 5G, OTT, and a whole slew of other acronyms.

Despite the almost overwhelming number of items to be found in this bestiary of new technologies, CTOs priorities seem to boil down to two things – platforms and people.

Gerry O’Sullivan, PayTV and Technical Consultant and former CTO of Fox News sums it up.

“Over the past few years we’ve seen an acceleration that is not typical for the broadcast industry. You used to have a three to five year roadmap to react to new technologies.

“Now, that roadmap has shrunk to 12 months. IP and cloud are requiring broadcasters to jump on to them or be left behind in competitive advantage. That three to five year view is redundant – if you wait that long, the technology you choose will not be fit for purpose.”

IBC2017 Keynote Panel: CTO Roadmap CTOs from across the media industry join a discussion about their strategic roadmap for the next two to five years

The potential of IP-based platforms has risen to the top of the priority list for many CTOs.

Adde Granberg, the Director Technology/CTO at SVT, Sweden’s public broadcaster, describes it as his biggest challenge.

Svt morgonstudion
Morgonstudion: available on SVT Play

He says: “The key thing is about moving the company towards workflow in a digital, IP-based environment to really take advantage of the new technologies: 3G, 4G, smaller cameras.

“As a public broadcaster, we need to be where the audience is – and they are moving more and more to online platforms. Doing this is my big challenge right now.”

O’Sullivan, who is Chair of the CTO Roadmap session at IBC, reinforces the focus on IP infrastructure.

“You need to have a strategic end to end IP platform strategy – not just build up ad hoc,” he says.

He also adds a caveat: “IP platforms linked to the cloud is a dominant thing that is coming through. The concern is that there are very only a very few companies like Amazon and Microsoft offering those services.

“Traditionally, broadcasters have emphasised the need to avoid having to rely on a sole provider. With cloud services, we seem to have gone back on one of our main rules by using only one supplier in most cases.”

O’Sullivan sees significant challenges in developing business cases for rolling out new technologies. “The new tech is harder to justify – is there a direct revenue stream for this? You can virtually launch a new channel overnight with OTT and streaming services, but audiences’ response to these new services tend to be ‘thank you very much, but don’t expect me to pay extra for this.’

“The new services are simply expected to be provided…