IP Transition ‘A Big Deal’

From left: Moderator Deborah McAdams with panelists Paul Shen, Vince Roberts, Charlie Vogt, Clyde Smith and Al Kovalick.From left: Moderator Deborah McAdams with panelists Paul Shen, Vince Roberts, Charlie Vogt, Clyde Smith and Al Kovalick.

A number of top technologists highlighted the potential of IP to revolutionize the TV indus- try during Tuesday’s Super Session “Television’s Transition to an All-IP Future — Why It’s a Big Deal.”

Moderator Deborah McAdams, the exec- utive editor of TV Technology, set the stage by noting that for the first time in nearly two decades of covering the industry “tech issues were the biggest story of the convention” and that “the transition to IP is turning into one of  the fastest moving tech stories in the industry.” The panel of top technologists from Disney/ ABC, Fox, Imagine Communications and TVU Networks agreed. “The business is evolving more rapidly than we’ve ever seen it, but there is not enough flexibility with traditional infrastructures to address the rapidly changing business or to scale up new services at will,” said Clyde Smith, a consultant for Fox Network Engineering and Operations, when asked why the IP transition is such a big deal. “IP means you can scale, and that all these processes can be automated. It is a win all the way around, but the best part is that you can future-proof your operations” for 4K or other newer technologies.

Those advantages convinced Disney/ABC Television Group to announce at the market that it would be embracing these new IP tech- nologies in a major deal with Imagine Commu- nications to deploy a cloud-based master con- trol for ABC, a first.

Vince Roberts, executive vice president of global operations and chief technology offi- cer at the Disney/ABC Television Group, ex- plained that they had already adopted cloud- based technologies to handle the delivery of content to digital platforms like the Watch ABC app. “The only ways to automate those process- es and the only way to scale and be device-ag- nostic was cloud-based,” said Roberts.

Roberts expects that the adoption of cloud- based IP technologies relying on software-defined networks will produce even greater benefits for their linear networks like ABC by allowing them to rapidly launch new services without having to build large, extremely expensive broadcast facilities.

“When you see one of the most iconic brands in the world moving to a virtualized cloud so they can take advantages of much greater opportuni- ties in the future, you see why this is such a big thing,” said Charlie Vogt, CEO of Imagine Com- munications, who has been a vocal proponent of these technologies in the last two years.

Vogt and Roberts both stressed, however, that the transition will take time. “It’s not like a light switch,” Roberts said; it will continue to use a lot of legacy equipment and developing new workflows for cloud-based infrastructures “is very hard work.”

“In two years the theme at NAB Show will be ‘bridge the world’” between IP and the traditional baseband video, said Al Kovalick, founder of Media Systems Consulting.

A number of members of the audience, as well as panelists, raised questions about how smooth that transition might be. Issues of security, standards, the readiness of current IP technologies, training, redefining workflows and what areas might be the slowest to make the transition were all discussed.

Roberts stressed the need to change workflows and cultures as a particularly difficult challenge. “You can’t just take existing workflows and put them in the cloud” if you want to get the full benefits, he said.

Some of these challenges, such as finding ways to attach more metadata to content, can also have a big payoff, said Paul Shen, CEO of TVU Networks.

“We have to burn the ship,” he said. “We have to move forward” to survive.