How has the role of Professional Services evolved in recent years?
Installation of equipment has always been important and has primarily been in-person. While in-person is still a requirement for some products, we are increasingly seeing a move towards remote set-up and support. The pandemic accelerated this transition; we had to innovate and find a different approach to working with customers, but also ensure we could do that more securely.
Remoting in is far more sustainable than in-person and helps customers to meet their own goals for a reduced carbon footprint – plus, they are not paying for travel costs on top. With more viewing services coming into the market, delivering more cost efficiency meets our customers own priorities.
The migration to more software-defined environments, cloud, and COTS hardware makes the process more straightforward by providing access in a standardised way, and with IP video we can now start to see the video output from customers’ systems remotely as well.
Part of our role is to help customers educate their teams, and their engineers, to make the shift and adapt to working in new ways with these advanced technologies. It helps to get as far upstream as possible, so we design new workflows or migrate existing workflows on to a new system – in short, we can provide a much better experience for customers as they migrate to new technology platforms.
Security is a big concern, and Rohde & Schwarz has an impeccable pedigree in this area from our work with the aerospace and security. We can call on security experts and advise customers on how to ensure their systems are as secure as possible and keep them abreast of the latest developments.
Looking ahead, what vision do you have of the broadcast technology business?
As customers migrate to software-defined and virtualized solutions, and as remoting becomes easier – that is remote control of systems as well as remote servicing – remote production becomes a much more cost-effective prospect. Customers can leverage connectivity into a venue to take live streams from an event and edit them remotely using IP video. Again, this has accelerated since the pandemic.
We are also seeing a rise in temporary, event-based channels, and cloud and remote production makes this much more cost-effective than in the past, not to mention easy to rapidly spin up and down. This trend will increase going forward and it will drive viewers to a linear channel. In the absence of a specific live event, audiences are less likely to be drawn to a linear viewing experience.
What new opportunities does the move to remote bring?
Today, it is all about bringing more content to air cost-effectively – everyone is having to do a lot more with their content and find ways to monetise it as efficiently as possible. With a growing number of distribution platforms out there, advertising revenues are becoming increasingly diluted; if you are doing client-side ad insertion, the revenue margins are much tighter for commercials than they were a few years ago.
In parallel, there is an industry-wide need to be more sustainable in the way content is produced and delivered. Again, this is something that remote capability makes possible; instead of sending kit and crews out to individual events, you can handle all the editing and transcoding from a centralised location, allowing a single team to produce multiple events in a day.
How do you see new technologies such as 5G broadcast impacting the broadcast industry?
Connectivity is really where 5G can make a difference; in some parts of the world, there is no hardwired internet connection into transmitter locations, so with a 5G connection, you can go in and control and fix the system.
It also bridges the gap between broadcast and mobile systems using a single, global standard providing another way to distribute and receive content.
IWhat challenges do you see for broadcasters and how can they overcome them?
The acceleration brought about by the pandemic has raised a lot of questions for broadcasters – foremost among them the question of when you jump on the bus, when to monetise and when you are going to get a return on investment. It is not always the early adopters of new technology that are the most successful; in fact, more often they are not, whether that is due to running out of knowledge, time, or budget – or all the above – they may not reach their goals.
Greenfield installations are much easier, as customers do not have to worry about revenue coming in until the project is completed. With a brownfield, or in-place upgrade, it is much more complex as you must keep the existing system working and migrate staff and engineers to new ways of working.
This is where it is important to work with technology providers and leverage their consulting services is vital. In our case, the combination of deep knowledge of the broadcast world and expertise in areas such as cloud and 5G means we help customers design the solution in an efficient way to get it live on time and in budget. We also ensure that any solution we deliver is right for our customer’s business.
The other challenge facing broadcasters is that historically, they have been used to system lifecycles of around ten years. With COTS and datacentres, the refresh cycle is much shorter, so this needs to be worked into overall budgets.