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Assessing 2023: South-east Asia markets adrift & looking for new innovative ways of deploying technologies

By Shaun Lim

As 2023 begins to appear on the horizon, many key stakeholders in the broadcast and media industry are beginning to reflect on the year that was — 2022, … and pondering what may be in store in the new year ahead.

For those looking at the South-east Asia region as a barometer for where the broadcast and media industry is heading towards in 2023, they are likely to find expectations falling short, was the blunt assessment of Fintan Mc Kiernan, CEO, Ideal Systems, South East Asia.

In an exclusive interview with APB+, he said, “Many broadcast technology manufacturers based in the US, Canada and Europe ask me for an update on a synopsis for the broadcast market in the South-east Asia region. I hate to disappoint them when I tell them it is not really possible to do so, as South-east Asia is not the cookie cutter market that the US or Europe is.”

Instead, the increasingly diverse region has considerably raised the difficulty of providing a broadcast technology market analysis that can accurately represent an entire region that has seemingly gone a full circle.

Mc Kiernan described, “There was a time when countries in South-east Asia were all running on different clock speeds when it comes to the rate of adoption of new broadcast technologies. But by and large, there was some synchronisation and common trends, such as tape to file, and SD to HD, happened across the region at a reasonably similar pace.”

“However, that synchronisation has since drifted. South-east Asia, from the perspective of broadcast technology, has become a more idiosyncratic and silo-ed region than ever before. In 2022, a perfect storm of government Covid-19 policies and wars have hammered the global supply chains that broadcast equipment manufacturers took for granted.

“The usual question from broadcasters of, ‘How much is it’ was replaced with ‘How soon can I get it?’

“Never in the history of the broadcast industry has there been so much disruptions on the supply side. Some broadcast manufacturers have stopped taking orders for specific items altogether, others are quoting up to 300+ days for delivery but want a deposit with the order today!”

While the whole may not be greater than the sum of its parts in South-east Asia, there are still some trends and developments broadcasters should be paying attention to, including multi-platform content delivery and over-the-top (OTT) services.

“These are still attracting a lot of investment, although, now more than ever, eyes are on returns-on-investment as there is a realisation that the market can only support a finite number of OTT platforms,” said Mc Kiernan.

He also expects IP adoption to accelerate, driven by lower cost alternatives to SMPTE 2110, such as the Network Device Interface (NDI) specification, which Mc Kiernan describes as the “new Swiss Army Knife” of video production.

“NDI is starting to box above its weight, not just in broadcast but in pro-AV and the recovering live event business too.”

On the other end of the scale, he predicted that 4K would continue to lag behind due to lacklustre comer demand and the high deployment costs. Instead, 4K would likely get more traction as part of video-on-demand (VoD) in the OTT world.

Will 2023 be the year of the cloud?

Another technology development that Mc Kiernan is keeping a close eye on, is the cloud, as more cloud-based systems begin to flood the market.

He explained, “Both Covid-19 restrictions and supply chain issues have become tailwinds for cloud-based deployments that don’t require physical hardware to be delivered to broadcasters, or users to be in the broadcast facility to perform their tasks.”

“The momentum for cloud systems is increasing, but not necessarily in the way we all thought they would.

“What’s starting to emerge in broadcast cloud technology is the ability to do new things that were not possible before, rather than just migrating existing on-premises broadcast systems and processes to the cloud.”

Chief among these new technologies and new ways of doing things, Mc Kiernan identified, is Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), which can create efficiencies for broadcasters in ways that simply were not possible just a few short years ago. 

He elaborated, “For example, sports highlights packages can be created, personalised and distributed directly to viewers depending on their viewing habits. This provides the broadcaster with a competitive advantage by providing a quick turnaround time to viewers with a stickier experience.

“Also, it can be fully automated, thus not requiring expensive teams of video editors who are increasingly reluctant to work in the broadcast facility anyway.

“For those who want to continue working from home, the cloud-based system is the perfect way for broadcasters to retain key employees they may otherwise lose to their cloud-enabled competitors.”

Mc Kiernan, however, was quick to add, “The real killer app for 2023 and beyond is not any one of the above-mentioned new technologies; the killer app is when they are leveraged together.”

He cited the example of a live sports production system deployed by the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) this year. The system was deployed by FAS across five football stadiums in Singapore in January 2022 and has since produced more than 200 live football matches.

The FAS system is leveraging new NDI, SRT and cloud technologies with remote production techniques to enable all production and distribution to be done in-house for the first time in the association’s history. 

“This is a major achievement for any sports body to have their media production vertically integrated and is also the world’s first FIFA certified NDI-cloud enabled production system.

“Expect more of this type of innovation to come in 2023 as both broadcasters and sports bodies alike realise the flexibility and benefits of these new broadcast technologies.”

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