Broadcast TV is at an important point in its evolution. On one hand, new competition for eyeballs from OTT services is growing steadily, and adding to the disaggregation of viewers by cable channels. On the other, new video technologies such as UHD and virtual reality could significantly change production, contribution and distribution processes for the entire industry.
Telco Transformation met up with Keith Goldberg, vice president of global operations and transmission services, responsible for getting the right Fox content to the right places and partners. He is also a member of our Video Transformation Advisory Board (VTAB). We talked about changes in the broadcast industry that he was seeing, and his views on shifts in the industry moving forward.
Telco Transformation: Can you take us through your day-to-day duties at Fox?
Keith Goldberg: My primary function at the Fox Networks Group (FNG) is to oversee the contribution and distribution for broadcast network, our cable networks and oversight for our regional Fox Sports nets. My team is also involved in coordination efforts with our international partners.
For the US networks, we have direct oversight for all live/linear transmissions, including sports and entertainment. We also work with the digital team to support and coordinate for streaming of some Fox services.
Additionally, we work with the affiliate engineering team on formats etc., for content contribution to our pay-TV partners, providing the majority of Fox feeds to these providers.
TT: How involved do you get with international providers?
KG: We are not solely responsible for international distribution. Fox has a global footprint -- we work closely with operators in LATAM, EMEA, APAC -- but there are different models in different regions. Our job is to work collaboratively with our teams there to support them in various ways, particularly where we can find economies of scale, implement initiatives to make their lives easier as well as manage costs. We are sort of the "mother ship" -- we do what we can to help with vendors, transmission, engineering, etc.
TT: Where do you see the most disruption coming from, in your business?
KG: I'm not sure I would say disruption... but in the past two years, broadcasters have looked to adapt how they run production, get away from a pure, traditional linear broadcast approach. Fox is very involved with new systems and technology standards -- we have representatives on industry boards and conference chairs, addressing new technologies such as ATSC 3.0 and UHD initiatives.
The IP-transition -- from SDI baseband -- is potentially disruptive in the broadcast world. It requires enormous infrastructure and workflow changes. We are still in a linear world, but inching towards a hybrid solution and embracing full-IP.
TT: How fast do you see adoption of new video technologies, such as virtual reality and UHD?
KG: Fox Sports has been working with a few vendors to produce a VR experience in select college football games. They may choose to roll it out to other sports, but not until we see a clear opportunity to monetize. But until then it will be more "stunts," offering occasional content only. We have more VR activity coming up, but it's not a particular focus yet beyond one-off events.
We have a lot of people working on UHD as well, smart people, more than myself! I'm not an engineer, so can't speak to all the circuit board dynamics. But we're seeing the CE [consumer electronics] sector adopting it today and we are working with vendors. We see an opportunity, particularly with HEVC [High Efficiency Video Coding].
TT: Are you seeing any important shifts in your business?
KG: Well, there is a lot of conversation. I don't think there's a lot of change being initiated in the immediate term. But there are some changes -- for example, shifting the master control to the cloud, or the shift from satellite distribution to terrestrial fiber, which is happening. There's also a focus towards the ability to offer localized ad insertion on both linear and digital.
But I think people are still scratching their heads and holding their breath, on which way the industry will head.
For me, the hub-and-spoke approach is looking more and more attractive -- the ability to base functions in the cloud, to be able to move locations as required -- is very attractive. Managing production costs for travel, not having to travel to sites as much for live events -- these are important benefits.
But I think overall, we have to take a slower approach to initiating something until we know how we can monetize it, and what makes sense for us.
All in all, the broadcast industry in general is in a changing climate. We see reports about linear viewership declining and the days of people sitting around their living room watching TV exclusively continues to wane. SVoD, OTT platforms are making inroads. So there are definitely increased challenges to finding the right niche and monetizing the investments being made.
That's the biggest issue of all.
— Aditya Kishore, Practice Leader, Video Transformation, Telco Transformation