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Broadcasters forging ahead with IP transformation, reaping cost, flexibility and scalability benefits

By Raymond Tan

The last two years have brought about rapid and lasting changes to the way TV broadcasters contribute, produce, distribute, and deliver content. With significant advances made in IP and cloud technology, broadcasters are recognising their transformational potential, and embracing many of the changes in the way they operate to stay flexible and agile.

This shift to the cloud and IP was clearly discerned from a recent Haivison survey in 2022 with 653 media and broadcast professionals across more than 60 countries, which revealed that almost two-thirds or 65% of broadcasters globally have already migrated part of their infrastructure to IP.

Key takeaways of the study include:

5G Continues to be the largest technology impacting the industry

5G tops the list of technologies that will most impact broadcasters within the next five years. A key area is in live broadcasting, where 5G can make high bandwidth, low latency internet access ubiquitous and extend IP-based workflows for any live event. 

5G will allow broadcasters to deploy fewer camera operators to events and allow staff to work on multiple events a day. Mobile operators’ 5G networks enable multiple cameras to stream HD footage to remote producers in real-time. 

This is critical as the high-expense production cost of traditional broadcasting can no longer be sustained, while at the same time audiences are demanding more content than what traditional broadcasters can deliver. 5G-enabled remote production is now making it financially viable to produce the diversity of content required.

The Internet is fuelling live production

About 79% of broadcasters are already relying on the internet for contributing video to live production workflows. The internet and low latency video streaming has been instrumental in decentralising remote production, enabling staff and talent to work from anywhere.

With broadcast workflows increasingly IP-based, 68% of respondents said hardware video encoders play a crucial role in streaming live video across local networks, the internet, and the cloud. Along with hardware decoders, encoders are critical edge devices for ingesting and egressing live video streams into IP production workflows.

Forging ahead with IP

When the pandemic struck in 2020, live event producers and broadcast engineers were scrambling to figure out how to continue delivering quality programmes to viewers. With the uptake of IP and cloud technology, and switching from centralised on-premise production, production teams can distribute their work while not being in the same location. This drove new workflows such as remote operation of on-site equipment like replay systems, as well as remote collaboration with staff spread across the globe. 

Today, about two thirds or 65% of those surveyed have migrated at least part of their broadcast infrastructure to IP, despite challenges including dealing with budget limitations and the complexities of transitioning workflows. 

However, the study found that only about 17% of respondents have made the complete leap to IP as SDI, a digital but not IP technology, is still widely used across the industry. Broadcasters have important legacy investments in equipment such as cameras, monitors, and switches that still rely on SDI inputs and outputs. 

Although just over a third of respondents polled continue to rely solely on SDI infrastructure, almost half are adopting a hybrid approach that adds newer IP equipment while continuing to leverage existing SDI investments. For example, some broadcast gear, including Haivision’s Makito X4 Encoder, is facilitating the transition to IP by supporting both SDI and SMPTE ST 2110.

When it comes to implementing IP technologies within production facilities, including outside broadcast (OB) vans and trucks, a significant portion of broadcasters are adopting NDI. This is followed by cloud-based workflows, which can facilitate the decentralisation of production. Just under a third of broadcasters are currently using SMPTE ST 2110. Each of these IP video technologies is playing a key role in the transformation of broadcast facilities. 

The future is hybrid

The past two years have also significantly impacted how broadcasters are working and producing content. Of those surveyed, 60% believe that the future will involve employing new hybrid workflows with a growing mix of on-premise, IP, and cloud technologies for both on-site and remote staff. 

With production workflows become increasingly decentralised, only 15% of media and broadcast professionals surveyed believe that their organisation will go back to the way it was pre-pandemic. The majority or 60% see hybrid workflows as the way of the future with a growing mix of on-premise and cloud technologies for both on-site and remote staff.

Broadcasters are also accepting that many of the recent changes to the way we work and produce content are here to stay. The new normal is hybrid, whether it is how broadcasters work or what technologies they use.

SRT is the most widely used transport protocol

According to Haivision, the Secure Reliable Transport (SRT) has seen rapid growth in its adoption since being open-sourced in 2017 and is now deployed by 63% of broadcasters, overtaking the legacy RTMP protocol as the most commonly used method of transporting video over IP. 

SRT is codec agnostic and adoption has been driven by the need for reliable, secure, and low latency video transport. SRT provides TV broadcasters with a secure and reliable solution for low-latency video contribution over the Internet, and includes low-latency packet loss recovery and AES 128/256-bit encryption for end-to-end security.   

RTMP remains important, but it is a mature protocol with no future development plans by the original developer. UDP is still applicable to local area networks, while HLS and MPEG-DASH are used primarily for content delivery.

Challenges faced – Budgets still the key concern

Now in its third year, Haivision’s study sought to get a deeper understanding of how broadcasters are adapting to the new media landscape, the challenges they face and technologies they plan to invest in.

When asked about the biggest challenges facing broadcasters as they transition to IP, budget limitations was the leading concern. Budget is intrinsically linked to other concerns such as the complexity of evolving workflows and security concerns. A lack of bandwidth, IP and cloud knowledge, the reliability of networks, and being able to hire qualified staff were factors that were also dependent on budgets. 

Haivision recommends that broadcasters take a gradual approach with a hybrid phase, adopting open standards such as SRT, and leveraging cloud technology to lessen capital expenditures. 

Among the challenges faced, reducing latency is a key issue to overcome. Reducing latency at the first mile, for live contribution, can benefit the entire broadcast chain. When deploying decentralised workflows, keeping video latency between stakeholders as low as possible is key to successful remote collaboration. 

Transformation of workflows well underway

41% of broadcast professionals have already begun, or have completed, the migration to IP and cloud-enabled workflows. Haivision said most broadcasters are adopting a mix of different IP and cloud technologies. While a third have not migrated their workflows just yet, they plan to do so within the next 12 to 24 months. The transformation of workflows is well underway for many broadcasters, while others are just beginning to make plans. 

Combined with low latency video encoders and SRT for extending programme outputs and video monitors, virtual desktop technology is proving to be a popular remote operation solution for live broadcast equipment, including graphics and replay, that need to be on site due to high bandwidth and local storage requirements. 

For broadcasters leveraging virtual desktop solutions, 65% are operating their live production workflows remotely as they keep staff at home for reasons of safety, cost, and logistics. Remote, over- the-shoulder type editing workflows have been implemented by about half of broadcast professionals, followed by graphics for playout. Traditionally a field-based workflow, a quarter of replay systems are now being operated remotely using a combination of virtual desktop and video streaming technology. 

Marcus Schioler, Vice President of Marketing, Haivision, said, “The last two years have brought rapid and lasting changes to the way TV broadcasters contribute, produce, distribute, and deliver content.

“These survey results give us a clearer understanding of how broadcasters are adapting to their new hybrid reality, whether it’s how and where they work or what technologies they use.

“The key to their success will rely on how flexible and agile they can make their broadcast workflows.”

Raymond Tan is a senior journalist and communications consultant who covers the technology, media, entertainment, broadcast and travel industries. He has also worked across several media organisations in roles ranging from publisher, bureau chief to editor.

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