By Matthew Goldman, Senior Vice President Technology, TV & Media, Media Solutions, Ericsson
We often emphasize the amount of change that the TV and media industry undergoes but unlike many other industries, it is unique. Broadcast is always on, 24/7, 365 days a year, and with that, comes a plethora of challenges. Yet over the last two decades we have seen huge advances in technology, to the point that other industries have been able to transition from industry-specific hardware to generic commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) servers and switchers, which run software off of generic processors.
We are now at the cusp of being able to achieve this feat in broadcast – actually, the entirety of the professional media industry – through IP. It is touching almost every aspect of the creation, processing and delivery of rich media content. While imperfect, the ubiquity of this technology today makes perfect sense – particularly for our industry. Continuing to develop industry-specific technology for multiple broadcasters all over the world, in multiple formats and for multiple platforms and devices, does not achieve the flexibility and economies of scale needed to remain competitive.
Consider also, that by 2020, half of all viewing will be done on a mobile screen and half of this will be done on the smartphone alone. (Ericsson ConsumerLab TV and Media Report 2017). As the mobile trend is likely to continue beyond 2020, we will see an increased need for mobile-friendly content and higher network demands. As the media industry moves into this new period of transformation, there is an enormous opportunity to leverage the economies of scale that IT protocols and infrastructure offer to drive greater flexibility and more agile service delivery.
In addition, we have to think about the multiple facilities involved in enabling broadcast – it requires more OPEX and round-the-clock support from staff. Yet, we can see that a number of industries are proving that you do not require that level of infrastructure to enable video over IP – and we can see this through the impact of new entrants to the market, such as Netflix, YouTube, Hulu et al. As these new and even more compelling services come to the fore, the need for software-based compression and media processing, cloud architecture and IP-connected video consumption has become an industry imperative. IP is now the foundation for a future where many more of the complex IP systems can be simplified and enhanced.
By moving to an all-IP architecture, our industry can simplify its operations by enabling common staffing and delivering an array of cost-effective, dynamic new services through the virtualization of network and media functions. In essence, this migration will deliver flexible scaling of services, facilitating a more efficient use of compute/processing resources. This will in turn drive an enormous transformation for our industry, particularly in terms of compatibility and scalability; production and content delivery providers will be able to reduce time-to-market and benefit from a more agile development environment.
At the end of 2017, SMPTE published the ST 2110 standards for Professional Media Over Managed IP Networks, which is a new standards suite that specifies the carriage, synchronization and description of separate elementary essence streams over professional IP networks in real-time, for the purposes of production, playout and other professional media applications. This means we can radically alter the way professional media streams are handled, processed and transmitted. The standardization of SMPTE ST 2110 enables intrafacility traffic to become all-IP, ensuring that organizations can use just one common data center infrastructure rather than two separate facilities for SDI and IP switching/routing, while maintaining the high quality-of-service guarantees that the broadcast and production industry requires. The standards ultimately support the creation of an entirely new set of applications that leverage IT protocols and infrastructure.
The holy grail for our industry is to ensure that within the next three to five years, we can reduce or eliminate the need for specialty broadcast equipment – and instead leverage the benefits of data centers, COTS equipment and switchers. As we undergo the transition from broadcast-specific architectures to IT-based solutions, we will see increased integration of software-defined media processing and media processing function virtualization.
The TV and media industry is now ready to offer higher quality delivery through the leveraging of IT-led software-defined methodologies, creating superior workflows that respond to customer needs. Now, with the new SMPTE ST 2110 standards in place, technology suppliers can move forward with manufacturing and respond to the high demand for interoperable equipment based on the new suite of standards.