The IP-based media future has arrived – business leaders must act now or risk falling behind

May 31, 2023 by Brad Wall, CTO

Most of my conversations with customers are no longer about weighing up the benefits of a shift to IP-based media distribution. Media leaders have recognized the need to embrace future-ready technologies like IP now to secure the future of their business amid economic headwinds, rising costs, and increased market complexity. The stakes are too high to get caught behind and content providers urgently need efficient means of driving scale and ROI to optimize their balance sheets. Today, decision-makers know that moving to an IP-first model makes sense from both a business and a technology standpoint. It’s no longer a question of if — it’s a question of how quickly they can make it happen.

Brad Wall, CTO

Betting on a reliable future

Despite continued innovation through significant technology shifts over the years, major media organizations have typically been risk-averse and cautious of change. In 2023, leading media brands are making bold business decisions about their future and trusting newer technology to provide the stable foundations for growth. While satellite and fiber were previously seen as the only reliable means of transporting high-value live video, the dawn of internet-based delivery has come around sooner than many of us originally anticipated.

While content owners have long experimented with open internet protocols to bring mid to lower-tier live events to television audiences, today, a fully-managed, monitored, and proprietary IP network approach is defining a new era in media production and delivery. IP paths are now the standard primary path for the distribution of high-value live events and full-time channels. Embracing an IP-first approach is no longer a risk. Top media companies around the world are already benefiting from an ultra reliable, broadcast grade alternative to traditional models that offers greater business intelligence and new levels of productivity, flexibility, and scale.

Need for speed

Consumers are moving faster than the overall technology innovation of the industry. I don’t think too many of us are scared to admit that. New platforms, devices, and viewer behaviors emerge and evolve every day. As a result, time isn’t a luxury that many media businesses can afford. The paradigm shift to digital-first viewing and the explosion of new distribution channels and business models means that legacy workflows and legacy thinking are no longer adequate to serve consumers at scale. Consumers now have a greater choice than ever around how they like to consume content and on which platform. This means media brands need to move faster than they have done before to gain and retain viewers while maximizing monetization.

Migrating to IP provides the necessary framework for any media business to efficiently capture multiple revenue streams and build out new service offerings across over-the-top (OTT), digital, and free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) platforms. In a competitive landscape where time to market is paramount to securing eyeballs and growing your brand, content owners are no longer waiting for the perfect justification or the perfect time to move to an IP-first blueprint. Executives that want to futureproof their media business know that the time is now — there’s no more time for analysis paralysis.

Scaling your business in a fragmented landscape

Ever increasing sports rights costs, increased content costs, and surging global demand mean that achieving scale is more important than ever. Enabling regionalization and customization at scale is pivotal to capturing untapped, diverse audiences while deepening engagement with hyper-localized programming. While all media companies understand the need to tailor their content offering to suit various platforms, regions, and cultures, cost-efficiently and reliably achieving this level of customization is only possible through an IP-powered, multicast-enabled transport model.

Rights holders and broadcasters are embracing IP distribution and cloud-enabled versioning to easily scale niche sports and other entertainment programming across OTT, digital, and FAST services, squeezing maximum value out of content investments while providing language specific, curated live event experiences to serve global streaming audiences with the content that matters the most to them.

At its core, driving a greater tonnage of content, with more versions of that content, all while enabling 4K and UHD quality to meet enhanced viewer expectations, brings higher bitrates and, sometimes, unavoidable costs. In a market where media companies are trying to cut their expenditure, taking a pragmatic and intelligent approach to managing and transporting that content as seamlessly as possible and with minimal egress charges is a must.

Bold steps to define the future

Emerging technologies go through stages of innovation and early adoption before taking off en masse. Many technologies don’t make it past the second stage. IP-based production and video transport technologies have now reached the mass adoption stage, and business leaders are acting fast to ensure that they get ahead of the curve. While we may have already realized the urgent need to shift to future ready IP foundations, I don’t think that any of us can predict the limits to which an all-IP reality can continue to transform our industry.