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Prescription for 2022: A prognosis by Dr Zaki on managing the broadcast and media business during a pandemic

By Shaun Lim

Like many industries, the broadcast and media industry has not been exempted from the disruptions brought forth by the Covid-19 pandemic. If anything, broadcasters and media operators have arguably been even more adversely impacted during this period of uncertainties.

Take, as an example, the coverage of large-scale live events, a production staple for the industry. With tight restrictions and SOPs on huge gatherings put in place by the Malaysian government to contain the pandemic, integrated media company Media Prima found their ability to organise concerts and large entertainment events “stifled”, according to Dr Ahmad Zaki Mohd Salleh, Director of Technical Operations, Media Prima.

Besides facing a shortfall in content production, Media Prima also had to manage the impact of the pandemic on the company’s most valuable asset – its people. Dr Zaki told APB+, “From time to time, we experienced COVID-19 infected staff and exposures that resulted in loss of manpower. Every time any of our production staff comes into contact with a COVID-positive person, they have to be quarantined for 10 days.

“Our production facility has to be sanitised a few times after every COVID case is confirmed, and studios are particularly vulnerable as they are closed areas and extremely susceptible to infections.”

Throughout the pandemic, Media Prima also realised the growing importance of Disaster Recovery Plans (DRP) and systems, with special and emergency procedures heading the agenda during management meetings, Dr Zaki revealed.

He also highlighted the importance of equipment resilience but this pales in comparison to manpower resilience, urging organisations to include manpower redundancy into their DRPs. “We may have all the standby equipment in the world, but when people need to be quarantined, no one is there to operate your standby equipment, no matter how sophisticated your equipment is!” he asserted.

Automation, AI and cloud infrastructure the keys

As for what technologies can help broadcasters create content that will attract and retain eyeballs, Dr Zaki identified automation, artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud infrastructure, although he was quick to emphasise that no matter what technology is utilised, efficiency and productivity will hold the key to success.

He explained, “The proliferation of digital media platforms provides different conduits for delivering content. Everyone is into this [creating and delivering content], but the successful ones are those who operate from ‘shophouses’ or ‘garages’ with a few guys with laptops doing everything from content ingest, editing, transcoding, to re-transmitting.”

With financial recovery likely to be a top priority for many broadcasters and media operators in 2022, Dr Zaki cautioned about the scarcity of potential new revenue streams. Instead, broadcasters may need to concentrate on capitalising on available revenue streams and finding different ways of making them more viable.

He added, “There will be more sponsored content in addition to commercial spots but digital revenue still has a long way to go. TV commerce is also making a comeback, but we are still far behind online commerce.”

As the pandemic continues to accelerate digitalisation, many broadcasters are also in the process of fine-tuning or implementing their digital transformation plans, which, Dr Zaki recommended, should focus on people rather than purchasing new equipment.

He concluded, “Improving the skillsets, attitudes and creativity of staff will remain the main challenges we have to face.

“As for opportunities, we should definitely pay more attention to automation, AI and machine learning – especially in the areas of subtitling and quality control – and better engagement with authorities on issues such as compliance and control.”

Embracing cloud and live IP key for media companies in 2022

With OPEX-based models the directive for many broadcast and media organisations in 2022, expect cloud adoption to gain pace, was the prediction of Paul Maroni, Sales and Marketing Manager, Magna Systems & Engineering Group.

Maroni told APB+, “Cloud provides versatility and agility without having to invest in hardware and infrastructure, although it can work out to be more expensive over time, and there are risks involved due to the reliance on connectivity, as well as security concerns.”

The largest investment facing established media companies, however, lies in the move to live IP, Maroni noted. “There needs to be a compelling argument to move to IP from traditional baseband video,” he said. “One of the catalysts for change is 4K/Ultra HD (UHD), which is easily managed in IP, compared to the bandwidths required in baseband.

“The other catalyst is relocation or consolidation – it makes sense to build a new IP infrastructure for greenfield sites.”

Maroni also identified the upskilling required for both the IT technologist and the Broadcast technologist as the main stumbling block for media companies to embrace live IP and cloud, and reiterated Magna Systems’ commitment to continue building consultative relationships with their customers, and to help them better understand, and make the transition to, these technologies.

He continued, “We not only rely on our vendors for the latest trends and technologies, but also the industry standard bodies like SMPTE and IEEE for training and access to their knowledge base.

“We need to be one step ahead of our customers to ensure that what we propose will not only suit them today, but well into the future.”

Question: What should be the new directives to include in your DRPs in overcoming manpower shortages to survive and thrive in the next 24 months?

Please send your sharing to maven@editecintl.com.

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