To rent or to buy? This has long been a topic of debate in the world of property, with people having to choose between spending virtually all of their money up front or giving their money away each month with little chance of seeing a return.
How does this apply to the media and entertainment sector? Well, the need to constantly evolve to stay ahead of the technology curve places a heavy emphasis on embracing innovation. It has never been more important for businesses to adopt new ways of working and new technologies. However, factors such as shrinking budgets and limited periods of utilisation mean many organisations are being hindered by the associated capital expenditure involved.
This means the traditional tactic of purchasing their own assets such as cameras, lenses and live production tools, and then sweating them as much as possible in order to extract maximum value is no longer viable for many media organisations. For several reasons, it has become an outdated approach.
Challenges to consider
The most important thing for organisations to remember is they have to get the procurement process right. There’s no room for error, which is becoming more of a challenge as solutions get more advanced and complex and standards continue to be developed. From getting locked in to a certain vendor, to picking one that doesn’t align to its technical roadmap, making the wrong decision could hinder an organisation for years. As such, having access to a diverse portfolio of assets and hardware may actually be a better fit within their workflow.
The second issue is that expensive pieces of kit now become outdated faster than ever before. Advances in technology move faster than buying cycles, meaning it doesn’t take long for users to fall behind. With manufacturers primarily interested in selling in their latest and greatest offerings, users can quickly find themselves without access to new and important features. The pressure is on to keep up.
Thirdly, maintaining this equipment can be a drain on resources, particularly having to cope with any downtime while kit is being serviced or repaired. If the kit isn’t physically functioning, businesses are losing money.
Finally, there is the matter of cost. While buying the latest technology can help drive growth by bringing in new business from end users looking to work with the latest formats and workflows, it can also be extremely expensive. This often puts new technology beyond the reach of many budgets.
Reasons to rent
With all these factors in mind, it’s no surprise that long-term hiring of equipment is becoming increasingly attractive to those involved in the content creation process. In the same way that users can always get the latest handsets through phone upgrade programmes, or lease cars for a certain period of time through personal contract purchases, renting helps organisations flex towards the latest technology and work within a broadcast space that ordinarily would be cost prohibitive.
And there are plenty of other benefits. For example, specialist rental companies handle most of the evaluation work, as it’s in their best interest to do their homework and invest in what they believe to be the top performing solutions (i.e. the ones that are likely to deliver the best returns). If these companies have good relationships with the manufacturers, then they’ll also probably be among the first to access new models and alternative solutions when they are released. Rental agreements can simply be updated, letting end users get their hands on top-of-the-range technologies sooner so their creative toolkits remain at the cutting edge.
A TV studio provides a good example of how this works in practice. The studio faces competition from rival facilities for work, so being able to offer the latest production infrastructure is highly advantageous. With the likes of Netflix and other OTT services continuing to grow, the demand for progressive video formats such as 4K and 1080p are ever-increasing. Even if a production is being delivered in HD, there are business and quality advantages to be had in capturing it in UHD, but investing in the necessary cameras and lenses can be hard to justify for many businesses. This is especially true if the existing HD units are still performing as they should. But it doesn’t just come down to cost. In today’s environment, any studio that only offers an HD service risks losing projects, falling behind the technology curve and failing to meet the aspirations of producers who want a higher quality. This is an increasing occurrence and a trend that will continue as the consumption of content further evolves.
And what happens when this kit needs maintaining? It’s got to go back to the workshop or manufacturer, likely taking it out of action for days or even weeks until it’s ready to be returned.
If there’s no spare, this could even result in productions being turned away or increased overheads potentially harming future bookings or revenue for the studio.
Time to think long-term
By renting equipment, the onus is on the hire company to quickly source a replacement and provide a fix when something goes wrong. This ensures minimal disruption and fosters long-term customer loyalty by giving them confidence that there are unlikely to be any on-set technical issues to overcome, on top of being able to get their hands on the latest technologies. It’s an important factor to consider when sizing up rental partners. The larger the inventories of stock they carry, and the greater their geographical reach, the quicker they can respond to issues wherever or whenever they occur. The more innovative and forward looking the hardware, the greater the edge businesses can gain over their competitors.
The cost of rental also removes the issue of having to invest large amounts of capital in costly purchases, making it much more appealing to those involved in procurement.
While all of these exciting new tech buzzwords get banded around, many seem a long way off before they’re accessible. But renting can be an extremely effective way of getting around this issue. Content creators want to use the latest solutions to best showcase their work, and those that are unable to offer them will miss out. Modern businesses value flexibility over assets, so it’s essential that they put themselves in the best position to adapt as technology evolves. Renting instead of buying could be the key to staying relevant and getting an advantage over the competition.