To mark World Television Day, heavyweights from the TV technology industry speak about what’s to come
21 November marks World Television Day, declared by the United Nations General Assembly in 1996, “in recognition of the increasing impact that television has on decision-making by bringing world attention to conflicts and threats to peace and security and its potential role in sharpening the focus on other major issues.”
Fast forward 25 years, and it’s easy to see why World Television Day is less a celebration of the tool, and far more about the philosophy that it represents. Since its invention, the television has become a symbol for communication and globalisation in the modern world.
At a time when technology offers a multitude of ways for us to consume TV, several experts in the broadcast industry share their views on what television means for them, and their predictions for what the next 25 years may bring.
Television Back Then
According to Andy Waters, dock10’s head of studios, for many, television began on 26 January 1926, when the Scottish-born engineer, John Logie Baird, gave the first public demonstration of a working television. “His mechanical ‘Televisor’ pipped to the post a couple of all-electronic television systems being developed in America”, said Waters. “And by the end of the decade, Baird was regularly broadcasting experimental 30-line television.”
Baird’s invention began a revolution in media, communication and entertainment, and while television sets have changed over the years, the one thing that hasn’t is TV’s inherent ability to give us those memorable, defining moments.
“Many of us can say television shaped our formative years. As a young child, I was fascinated by sci-fi TV shows like Star Trek or movies like Star Wars,” said Simon Jones, studio manager, Iron Mountain Entertainment Services (IMES).
“Looking back now, sitting with my mum and older brother watching these TV shows and films brings back many fond memories. They played a huge part in not only defining my childhood but also steering me towards my eventual career in television/broadcast and post-production. We are preserving a part of our cultural heritage that can hopefully still bring us that connection to our past, to those significant and happy moments in our lives, for many years to come.”
A quarter of a century has passed since the UN general assembly first declared 21 November World Television Day, so we may well ask what’s changed?
For Nicolas Boulay, co-president, Worldcast Group, television has transcended the traditional ‘boundaries’ of the lounge. “When we talk about television it’s impossible to ignore that we are now referring to multiple screens. With OTT platforms, streaming and mobile devices, ‘television’ has expanded far beyond a box in the living room. Television is now an entertainment experience. The act of content consumption is ubiquitous, yet also much more personalised.
“Despite this change, linear TV is still a very important channel for advertisers to reach audiences. Of course, brand leaders see the value in spending time developing personalised ads; and after this step of creation, it’s obviously crucial to deliver the right message at the right time. To ensure this, it is important to make the right choices regarding infrastructure and technology. It’s challenging and highly complex, given the number of screens and delivery methods, but solutions exist that can help make those decisions easier; and in parallel ensure that more personal and entertaining advertising are delivered correctly.”
James Arnold, chief commercial officer, Red Bee Media, agrees with Boulay’s sentiments. “It has never been harder to define television than it is today and, as the number of screens, formats, and content keep multiplying, we seemed to be moving further and further away from the campfire that television used to be”, he said.
However, Arnold also believes that while the way we consume video content has changed and evolved over time, the television in the living room remains a focal point.
He added: “This became especially apparent during the period of the Covid-19 lock downs across the world. Suddenly we all turned to daily national briefings from government and health officials on public broadcasts, and as we realized that the coronavirus wasn’t going anywhere soon, many of us rediscovered the value of a shared experience with ‘television’ bringing us together. The Verzuz concert battles became a global phenomenon and livestreams started to replace cancelled in-person concerts.
“But these media events didn’t happen in lieu of traditional linear viewing experiences, they happened alongside them.
“And in the summer of 2021, with the return of dearly missed major sports events, millions of us once again gathered to share these viewing experiences together. Some of our broadcast customers saw almost record-breaking linear broadcast viewing during the summer, especially when the Euros made its delayed return to our screens. The conclusion is that although television as a phenomenon has evolved massively and we are seeing a clear proliferation of video content across multiple formats, screens, and geographies, these will continue to co-exist with linear and live TV shared viewing experiences.”
From a broadcast technology supply standpoint, Graham Sharp, CEO, Broadcast Pix believes that it’s far less to do with the transmission medium, and everything to do with the massive social change that has occurred as a result of television broadening into video. “Video has become democratized and omnipresent. It is no longer only the domain of professional engineers, writers, artists, and editors – it is now used by literally everyone,” he explained. “The growth in the use of video has been amongst these new users – yes, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon stimulated new professional productions and there have been a few new channels and professional streaming sites, but even this pales in comparison to the volume of video produced by amateurs – folks that do not have professional video production training.
“These new users are growing up with phone apps and web services that are easy to use and low cost. Following the inevitable product life cycle, it is only a matter of time before these low-cost apps and web services become fully featured and displace the so called ‘pro market’. If we are to be around to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of World Television Day, we have to be relevant to the next generation of content producers – we need to be ease of use and value driven.”
Television Technology Shaped By The Pandemic
There’s nothing like a global pandemic to be a catalyst for change. As an example, according to a study by media watchdog Ofcom, lockdown measures resulted in a spike in TV watching and online streaming, with adults in the UK spending up to 45 hours a week watching TV and online video.
This change in viewing behaviour, further impacted by the way in which the pandemic has fundamentally changed how we work and live, has also influenced the development of technologies within the television and broadcast industry. Alison Pavitt, director of sales & marketing, Pebble, said: “The changes in the television industry over the past decade have been significant. The last few years especially have seen a rise of broadcasters looking to adopt more IP and cloud-based technologies. It is clear that we’re on a trajectory where everything in media playout – and all other domains in media capture, management and delivery will leverage cloud technologies.
“For now, we’re still working through the challenges of a hybrid world, where on-premises meets cloud, where working in a transmission environment meets monitoring, managing and controlling channels remotely, and where linear television proudly occupies a place alongside on demand services. On World Television Day, it’ll be important to remember how much the global pandemic has taught those of us who have the privilege to work in the wonderful industry that is broadcast.”
An Exciting Time To Work In Television
Symon Roue, managing director, Europe, visual data media services, believes the evolution of the digital media supply chain has been remarkable in recent months - and there has never been a better time to be involved or start a career in this industry. “TV is the new film, streamers are the new broadcasters, producers are being commissioned for global audiences, distributors have catalogues bursting with opportunities, and creativity & technology are harmonising like never before. The advances in media technology underpinning this growth and bringing it all together are off the charts creating an almost renaissance for the industry that is opening doors for anyone looking to do something new and exciting.”
For continued progress however, it’s important to create the kind of environment that supports the television workforce of the future, said Chris Sarson, CEO, The Collectv. “Technology plays a massive role in making TV happen, but so do people, and as with anything, cultivating an interest and enthusiasm from a young age is the best place to start. Many universities and colleges offer opportunities for hands-on experience in student-produced radio and television stations for example, and some television facilities offer internships, which are a great way to get onto that first rung of the career ladder. The cornerstone of broadcasting is to educate and inform, and what better way to set our future employees up for success than to follow this same core value?”
Television In The Future
Will the television set as we know it disappear forever? Not according to Jérôme Vial, business development director, iWedia. “A number of commentators are predicting the end of the television set as we are moving to watch content on personal screens or even more immersive experiences through VR or AR, but I would disagree. Despite the proliferation of devices and mobile consumption of media content, the TV set as we know it will remain a reality for a majority of households in the years to come. Even if we move to more individual TV experiences, some content is there to be shared with others and watched on a bigger screen. Sports are clearly the best example, with family and friends gathering to watch and live this moment together. Even big hit series or “live” reality shows (Survivor, Top Chef) are events that viewers want to experience together, creating a moment of communion, beyond just interactions on social media.
“Cinemas didn’t disappear once we got individual TV Sets in each home. We reinvented the customer experience, so that going to the cinema became a complementary experience to the TV, and the same will happen with the TV set x individual mobile devices. Some content will always be better when consumed on a large screen with others around you.”
Andreas Eriksson, head of Telstra Broadcast Services highlighted the advent of 5G as a gamechanger for television in the future. “With its unparalleled speed and drastically lower latency, 5G technology could represent one of the most significant changes to television we’ve ever witnessed,” he said. “5G enables real time experiences that could transform how we consume television programmes. This innovative technology is already starting to make inroads in sports broadcasting. According to a recent poll, 76% of sports industry decision makers plan to use 5G to drive innovation, and close to the same amount (65%) would happily consider it for remote production. We have already seen 5G-enabled cameras used at the US Open for Fox Sports and as part of the pre-match soccer coverage for BT Sport. 5G is capable of driving innovations such as untethered cameras, which can roam over wide areas. This is really beneficial for television coverage of diverse events like golf and motor racing.”
“It’s not too hard to imagine new forms of fan engagement being developed both in-stadium and for viewers at home that leverage the greater collection and analysis of data in real-time, thanks to edge computing bringing compute power and storage close to the source of data and present it to the viewer through a range of 5G-connected wearables.”
Watching television today is a very different experience to that of our parents, or grandparents, and the rapid pace at which technology changes means that the disruption is likely to continue. dock10’s Waters concludes with a very apt example: “Almost 100 years after John Logie Baird made the UK’s first public television transmission, we are beginning to see CGI and virtual reality transform and expand the viewer experience even further. We’ve come a very long way in a century of television!”