Three trends shaping the future of linear channel distribution

May 9, 2024 by Roger Franklin, Chief Strategy Officer

NAB Show is where the global media ecosystem engages in big picture discussions about real-world challenges that matter most to broadcast, sports, and streaming businesses. LTN is at the core of those conversations — it’s in our DNA. Major events like NAB Show act as a pulse check on emerging business models, disruptive technologies, and the health and trajectory of the industry as a whole.

As media leaders look to streamline costs and engage new audiences while ensuring mission-critical quality and reliability, what were the biggest topics driving conversations at the show? Here are three trends that were being talked about:

All roads lead to IP: Driving cost savings in live video distribution

The drive for profitability is mission-critical for media organizations. But amid ongoing macroeconomic challenges and boardroom pressures, new breeds of media leaders are championing digital transformation and rethinking technology investment to future-proof their business roadmap. Broadcasters, sports networks, and content owners need to scale and experiment across new digital distribution frontiers if they want to keep up with viewer shifts and expand their audience. Doing so requires cost-efficient technology foundations that enable them to decrease and contain costs along the way.

Modernizing your approach to live video distribution is one of the most effective ways to manage costs while increasing the scale of high-value live events and linear channel delivery. IP-based video transport technologies have been tested and proven in high-value scenarios, and are being widely deployed by Tier One organizations. Shifting away from satellite toward an IP-first strategy removes the need for disparate legacy systems and infrastructure investments that require heavy resourcing and incur eye-watering baseline operational costs. Media businesses like MSG Networks and TelevisaUnivision that traditionally utilized satellite for live video distribution are unlocking new levels of cost and operational efficiency by moving to a more flexible and scalable IP-based alternative.

Future-proofing video distribution methodologies is just one part of the cost equation. Taking a holistic approach to media production, distribution, and monetization across traditional environments, digital, and FAST platforms helps media companies streamline operational costs and complexities while growing within their means. Today, businesses are looking for ecosystem technology providers that can blend ultra-reliable global video transport with advanced content creation, customization, and ad enablement capabilities for full-time channels and live events. Take World Surf League (WSL) for example: a fantastic blueprint for a digital-first, growing sports organization that harnesses a suite of IP-based contribution, distribution, and monetization tools to explore new global distribution frontiers while achieving sustainable business growth.

Embracing a more intelligent IP roadmap

As the global media industry accelerates its adoption of IP-based distribution solutions, we’re seeing a notable decline in the prevalence of satellite-centric technologies across the exhibition halls at events like NAB Show. While there is a growing acceptance of IP as a more flexible, cost-efficient, and scalable live video distribution mechanism, media businesses still need to make important decisions about the nature of their IP-based distribution future. Do you want to engage global sports fans with tailored live sports experiences across digital platforms? Are you looking to explore new ways of versioning live event content and linear channels at scale to maximize reach and monetization across platforms and geographies? And does your organization need more efficient ways to enable complex blackout, content replacement, and rights management capabilities?

These are some of the questions we explored with media businesses during conversations at NAB Show. The logical solution for the vast majority of those media companies is migrating to a fully managed, multicast-enabled IP video transmission model.

Why? Less sophisticated, protocol-only IP solutions fail to deliver the mission-critical reliability that is required for high-stakes, high-value live video distribution. Choosing to embrace a proprietary, managed global IP network with patented architecture and routing protocols helps overcome the challenges of internet transport — enabling ultra-low latency and high reliability. Meanwhile, a multicast network architecture with built-in business intelligence, advanced ad enablement and content versioning capabilities is fundamental to underpinning a modern content distribution model that allows for greater multi-platform reach and targeted advertising. Today, content providers also require deeper levels of monitoring, visibility, and technical operations center (TOC) support to reduce internal resourcing pressures and focus on their core business differentiators.

Live and linear channel creation is everywhere

Media companies want to find quicker, more affordable ways of launching new channels or linear channel variants without significantly increasing headcount or investing in new tech. We heard it firsthand, every day at NAB Show. Meanwhile, they need assurances that new digital linear channels across OTT and FAST platforms will generate the returns that, until recently, have been slow to fruition. Today, there are solutions available that make it easier and more cost efficient than ever to integrate fresh, live, and localized content within a new digital linear channel and scale distribution across a variety of downstream platforms. The result? Stickier content propositions geared around live programming, local news, or sports wagering channels that keep viewers tuned in and advertisers invested.

Innovation in broadcast advertising is nothing new at an event like NAB Show. But as broadcasters and streaming platforms experiment with new linear channels and live event offerings, new opportunities in advanced advertising are becoming key conversation drivers. Linear addressable advertising technology is maturing rapidly; eMarketer estimates total ad spend on linear addressable advertising in the U.S. will reach $4.2 billion this year, doubling the predicted total from 2020. Innovative technologies are helping build confidence and understanding in future-ready addressable advertising, alongside intelligent metadata signaling solutions that enable custom ad profiles for any platform. Looking ahead, emerging conversations around the power of contextual advertising to deepen audience engagement and unlock wider T-commerce and monetization streams should be on the agenda for ambitious ad buyers and media companies that want to lead the charge in a busy election year.

Show me the business case: Technology partnerships are changing

Economic realities and the push for profitability mean that strategic, outcome-focused technology investment is an imperative for media organizations looking to achieve sustainable growth. Although the emergence of new AI use cases may dominate show floor straplines and media headlines, content providers are focused on making technology decisions based on tangible business benefits and proven outcomes. Whether you’re looking to make the long-anticipated, necessary shift to IP-based transmission or unlock live event customization and linear channel creation for digital audiences, media businesses need more from their technology providers than ever before. Today, deeper levels of visibility, cost assurances, and best-in-breed operational expertise are fundamental to fostering trust and demonstrating business value.

If you’d like to find out how LTN can help your organization navigate new digital frontiers while delivering business growth, schedule a demo here.