2023 reflections: Navigating a hybrid live broadcasting future with intelligent technology decisions

December 20, 2023 by Brad Wall, CTO

Most folks in the industry understand the overall pace of change in the media business right now. Recent insight from Ampere Analysis shows global pay TV penetration will decrease for the first time in history next year. As traditional linear TV viewership declines in favor of online video subscriptions, audiences now have more choices than ever over how they consume content. Viewers continue to embrace cheaper AVOD offerings as well, with a higher tolerance for relevant, personalized advertising in exchange for flexible and seamless access to rich and deep content libraries. Meanwhile, more access to high-quality live sports and news via affordable, lean back viewing models such as free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) is redefining the live broadcasting landscape. The question is no longer about how quickly the industry is evolving — it’s about whether media businesses are doing enough to keep up with the pace.

The ability to accelerate toward new ways of working and quickly adapting to new consumer realities are critical factors for any media business operating in today’s broadcast landscape. However, it’s important to understand the industry’s evolution not as a sudden transition, but rather a gradual transformation that takes time and requires patience and experimentation. Despite reports around the ‘death’ of linear TV in the not-too-distant future, the reality remains that traditional television draws in massive audiences and billions of ad dollars. As media companies find their footing in a fast-changing, hybrid live broadcasting world, they need to protect the revenue-generating linear channels at their core, while simultaneously exploring new streaming models — all while keeping their investors happy and their viewers engaged.

Managing this level of complexity in a challenging and competitive landscape is incredibly demanding, and it’s not getting any easier. Media businesses need to modernize their technology infrastructure as well as their business strategies to survive — and they need to act fast.

Gaining a competitive edge in a dynamic live broadcasting landscape

It’s fair to say that the business of live broadcasting is more competitive now than at any point in history. The long-established broadcasting model has been turned upside down by the rise of streaming as digital-native video platforms and tech giants enter the live content game with even more urgency. Software-defined digital platforms such as Amazon Prime Video or Apple TV+ that have traditionally delivered on-demand video services are increasingly staking their claim in the live or linear streaming space while investing heavily in global sports rights that are set to surpass $60 billion for the first time in 2024, according to SportBusiness’ Global Media Report 2023. Digital giants have dipped their toes in the water for major live sports rights over the past few years, but now we have a real tug of war on our hands.

Live sports are one of the biggest subscriber pulls for any television or streaming service. As streaming heavyweights rebuild their platforms quickly to manage and deliver unprecedented amounts of live content, major sports leagues and federations are building out their own direct-to-consumer streaming strategies to engage with fans with tailored, personalized content experiences. Meanwhile, traditional broadcasting players are looking for ways to expand their digital audiences while serving core linear audiences. Organizations that have typically been slow to change, have taken a wait and see approach in the past decade, or have been hampered by legacy infrastructure are finding themselves caught between a rock and a hard place. They must quickly navigate internal process change, pressure on human and capital resources, all amongst a dynamic market evolution.

Embracing an IP-first future is about survival

With rapid shifts taking place across all elements of the media industry — from technology and new viewer habits to the very business models that support them — it’s sometimes hard to pinpoint what effective change really looks like for broadcasters and content owners. The migration toward IP-first workflows for the contribution, customization, and distribution of high-value live content is a pivotal foundational step for any media organization. The shift to IP has been on their agendas for well over a decade now, but if you had told me ten years ago that we wouldn’t even be perhaps halfway through this transition at the end of 2023, I would have said you were crazy. The arguments have been settled around the benefits of adopting IP-based distribution, and business leaders now widely accept IP as a more flexible, reliable, and scalable alternative to legacy satellite and fiber mechanisms. Our sales teams no longer need to discuss why businesses should move to IP — it’s about working out how quickly and efficiently media organizations can get there.

Earlier this year, I wrote about the pressing need for media businesses to future-proof their approach by embracing an IP-first future in 2023. The reality is that a lot of traditional media companies are still paying the price for procrastination — and they’re getting left behind. Bold market entrants and digital pioneers that are less encumbered by legacy workflows and methodologies are reaping the rewards in a fast-moving live broadcasting space. The next few years may well be a case of survival for media companies as they tackle new digital frontiers. Making the right decisions now about your long-term technology roadmap can ensure your business not only survives, but thrives amid the uncertainty.

IP-enabled business intelligence powers live broadcasting at scale

Today, fully managed, multicast-enabled IP distribution — underpinned by LTN’s proprietary, ultra-low latency and 99.999% reliable IP transport network — is being proven across the highest value scenarios while unlocking new levels of visibility and business intelligence for content providers. Organizations need to bring an ever-increasing number of content versions to multiple platforms and regions worldwide. To tackle this level of complexity, forward-thinking players are delivering complex content versioning and ad signaling capabilities while enabling intricate business rules around blackouts and rights management directly within the transmission network and applying them in an automated fashion. Integrating these kinds of advanced functions within a simplified and flexible video distribution workflow drives game-changing operational efficiencies for shrinking teams and maximizes ROI on valuable live content across any platform or device.

Around this time of year, we often ask ourselves where the industry might be in twelve months' time. While technology transformation will be crucial to providing the necessary foundations for survival in the years to come, a mindset shift will be just as important. Media companies must be more agile in order to capture new opportunities, compete with their rivals, and ultimately, keep up with consumers who are moving faster than any of us might have foreseen. Businesses that realize why it makes sense to kickstart their all-IP future today will be out in front by the end of 2024. If you’d like to join them, schedule a demo with us today to discover LTN Wave.