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Changing times: how innovations in TV broadcast are reshaping the game

Similar to radio’s digital revolution of the mid-’90s, innovations in television broadcast are happening rapidly – and they’re completely changing the game. TVBEurope editor Jenny Priestley reflects on the huge shifts in TV production and ponders where it could go from here…

Back in the mists of time, or the mid-1990s, radio went through a fundamental change. Out went quarter-inch tape and in came digital. Racks of carts, news clips and interviews found themselves on the scrapheap, replaced by computers where journalists and producers could edit without the need of a razor blade and white sticky tape. It was a game changer for everyone working in the industry. I was in my first job at Capital FM; I’d spent my college years studying for the dreaded Media Studies degree and doing as much work experience as possible. Then six weeks in, the world changed when Capital moved from the old Euston Tower to its new home in Leicester Square, and with it everything I knew about radio production went out the window.

Of course for radio, the introduction of digital has been huge. Now we have digital-only radio stations, shows simulcast around the country on multiple stations as owners consolidate and get ever bigger, and the advent of the podcast – anyone can podcast now, from the big stations to a group of film fans recording their reviews in a pub.

I mention all this because it seems to me that broadcast is going through another fundamental change at the moment. Whenever I talk to colleagues in the industry our conversations cover the same key themes again and again. From the production side, it’s all about IP and the Cloud. Both are shaping the industry in the present and also in the future. Manufacturers and broadcast executives are busy discussing standards and how the move to IP is going to work. BBC Wales’ new headquarters in Cardiff will be the first of the Corporation’s facilities in the UK to deploy IP across both its production and broadcast operation. In terms of audio, I keep hearing the phrases VoIP and AoIP from manufacturers like Riedel and Dante. Meanwhile, the Cloud is featuring more in terms of playout and moving content around the world.

The way we consume TV is completely different to how it was five, ten years ago. Linear TV is still key for live events such as sport or breaking news, but now viewers are watching what they want when they want

Jenny Priestley

The other big change is the current move to Dolby Atmos. Sky announced in August that it is broadcasting 124 Premier League games in Dolby Atmos during the 2017/18 football season, while Netflix has already adopted both Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision for its new original content. That of course is one big change that the viewer, or listener, can see as a positive change to their experience.

From a viewer’s perspective the broadcast landscape has gone through major developments in recent years. We have these key phrases now: OTT, VoD, second screen, streaming. The way we consume TV is completely different to how it was five, ten years ago. Linear TV is still key for live events such as sport or breaking news, but now viewers are watching what they want when they want. Binge-watch was added to the Oxford online dictionary in 2014 after the site noticed its usage had increased four-fold from February to June of that year.

It looks like the next big technological change for the viewer will be the rise of Social TV. The big tech giants such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Snapchat have identified an opportunity within the broadcast sector and are ready to grasp it. Just in the last few weeks, Facebook has launched its new Watch platform in the US featuring exclusive content from the likes of Discovery Channel. Social TV is more than just tweeting or posting about a show or event. It is a new way for viewers to find premium content not necessarily available through traditional broadcasters or even OTT platforms.

It’s an interesting time in the world of broadcast and media. There’s a lot to watch, or listen, out for.

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