Business as unusual: Eurovision Services on expecting the unexpected in 2022

La Liga Generic 33By Marco Tinnirello, CEO, Eurovision Services

If there is one thing that the global pandemic has taught me, it is to expect the unexpected. As the CEO of a major company, contingency planning is obviously always on my mind, but the rapidly evolving situation around the world, where you cannot be sure from one day to the next whether you will be allowed to visit a country, stage your event or even go out to a restaurant or the shops, adds an extra level of complexity to this.

As a long-distance commuter between London and Geneva, I have had to keep a close eye on the latest news from two different governments to avoid being caught in a quarantine limbo that might leave me stuck in one country when I need to be in the other. The cancellation of the 2021 IBC event just one week before it was scheduled to open is the perfect example not only of how difficult it can be to plan events today, but also how big the impact of such last-minute changes can be.

Broadcasting adaptability

Fortunately, after nearly two years living with COVID-19, humankind has shown both how resilient and how flexible we can be. In this relatively short period, our entire approach to work has transformed radically. Business as usual in 2021 meant something entirely different to what it did in late 2019. Meetings are now largely held virtually; many people now spend more time working from home than they do in the office, and yet the world continues to turn.

The impact on our industry has been huge and yet two of the world’s biggest sports events, the Euro 2020 and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, both went ahead with just a one year delay. I use the word “just” deliberately, because I have first-hand experience of the work that goes into organising these events and bringing them to audiences worldwide under such tough conditions, so the fact that these events took place at all is a great testament to our industry’s and our people’s ability to adapt.

Just as we have learned that we don’t necessarily need to be in the office every day to do our jobs and that we can have effective meetings and even exhibitions online, so the broadcast industry has evolved to the point that producers, editors, commentators and even – on occasion – camera operators do not necessarily need to be on site at an event to ensure great coverage.

Over the past couple of years we have seen a plethora of new services emerge as innovative companies take advantage of the move to “remote”. One could argue that this move was happening anyway and that the speed of the transition has simply been accelerated by the pandemic, so it’s a safe bet to predict that it will continue – and maybe accelerate even more – next year.

Time for remote IBCs

One newer trend that we may see next year, however, is the move towards remote International Broadcast Centres (IBCs), where for a major multisite event is no longer at one of the event sites or even in the same country as the event, but is instead joined to the demarcation point for distribution. Such a configuration would drastically reduce the number of outside broadcast vans required for this kind of event. Not only does this streamline the logistics for an event, cut costs and better accommodate COVID-19 precautions (since the IBC and distribution are in the same place), it also has the added benefit of improving an event’s environmental sustainability.

But what are the less obvious trends that we can expect next year? For one thing, the advances in IP content delivery have shown us that there is an appetite for delivery to points of presence in addition to the traditional satellite and fibre options. After all, once you are connected to a PoP, you can pick up any of the broadcast content that is delivered to it. I’m convinced that the more this develops, the more interesting it will become for content owners and broadcasters alike.

This will also help to alleviate some of the pressure on satellite distribution. Although I think that satellite still has a long future ahead of it for the contribution and distribution of premium live content, it will face a number of challenges over the coming years, notably from the worldwide 5G roll out and some consolidation within the industry. But on the other hand, the increase in feeds that greater regionalisation and personalisation will create will require more distribution capacity, whether this is on satellite or fibre. So while some are already predicting the demise of satellite, the irony is that these challenges may even end up exerting pressure on satellite capacity that could lead to an increase in prices over the medium term. I think that this is an area not to be underestimated and it is certainly one that we at Eurovision Services are paying close attention to.

As the move towards IP distribution continues, I think it is also worth considering the notion of distribution protocols. We have chosen to use SRT, which is now backed by an alliance that consists of over 400 members and in our opinion was the best choice, since it is compatible with all audio and video codecs and all transport formats. But it is one of four main protocols used for IP distribution, so the question is whether (and if so, how well) these different protocols will be able to co-exist as the demand for IP distribution increases.



Subscribe and Get SVG Europe Newsletters