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Welcome to the Broadcasting Revolution, Open to All Creators

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When we talk about how video is changing, we tend to focus on the viewer—how the experience today is different than it was even a few years ago; about cord cutters, online, and OTT vs. the traditional TV experience. But when we emphasize the ways that technological changes have affected viewers, we marginalize a tremendous amount of disruption those same technologies are bringing to the way people create and, ultimately, deliver content.

Traditional broadcast content distribution has come a long way. What was once handled by delivering physical tapes, and then by beaming over satellite, is now slowly migrating to being carried over IP. Broadcasting is beginning to leverage the internet as a means by which to get content from point A to point B, a vastly more efficient way than delivering tapes and far more cost effective than using satellites. If you want to see this in action, just look at the recent moves by content owners to reach consumers directly. By employing the internet, broadcasters have radically reshaped the way that content is both delivered and discovered.

But that is only part of the disruption.

Just as IP is disrupting the way that broadcasters are distributing their content, the cloud is decoupling other broadcast processes. Encoding. Editing. Post-processing. Advertising. Powerful computing platforms have enabled broadcasters to virtualize workflow elements that have traditionally been handled on-site, so that they can be completed anywhere and by anybody.

And when you throw Wi-Fi-enabled cameras into the mix, the combination of technology provides broadcasters with the ability to publish content from virtually anywhere.

But those same technologies are liberating more than just those traditional broadcasters. They are also creating a whole new set of media creators.

With an internet-connected smartphone or GoPro camera, any consumer can capture high-resolution video, edit it, and share it with everyone through social media. But that doesn’t put them on par with traditional content distributors. Rather, it’s the combination of those devices with cloud-based services, such as Meerkat and Periscope, that turn your average consumer into a personal broadcaster.

The barriers to broadcasting, whether by a traditional content owner or a smartphone-wielding consumer, have been torn down by technology. And that has profound consequences for the future. Think about it. YouTube stars are rising everyday, self-publishing content into “channels” and giving an entire generation of consumers an alternative to traditional content. Ordinary people are amassing thousands, or even millions, of viewers. Traditional broadcasters are delivering their content through Facebook. Dogs and cats living together. Mass hysteria.

What we call a “broadcaster” is evolving because what it means to “broadcast” is radically changing. It is no longer tied to an established workflow using specialized equipment and software. Liberated by IP and the cloud, this new kind of broadcasting enables anyone to not only capture and prepare content but to share it with the world.

And what will the broadcast experience look like in five years? Ten years?

I don’t think there is much beyond the liberation that has happened already. Overcoming the hurdles and boundaries to enable the “anytime, anywhere broadcasting” of today was the tipping point. We will just continue to see the ball roll downhill as we move into the future.

But beyond that, enabling broadcasting without boundaries doesn’t bring with it the quality that users demand from their television experience. The problem is a multifaceted one. Internet congestion. End-user bandwidth constraints. Codec and compression efficiencies. Sure, new cloud-based services will rise up to challenge those that will become incumbents. But there will be little change in the fundamental value propositions—that of enabling anyone, anywhere to broadcast content. No, the future of broadcasting innovation will focus on solving the underlying issues—the congestion, the codecs, the compression—in order to help everyone deliver an experience that is “broadcast quality.”

This article appears in the September 2015 issue of Streaming Media magazine as “Broadcasting Without Boundaries.”

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