The roadmap to digital innovation – BroadcastProME.com

In Dubai’s Kempinski Hotel, the Grass Valley Middle East Tech Summit tackled some of the most challenging aspects of digital transformation, bringing together front-line decision-makers.

The answers to the perennial question ‘Should there be a full-on migration to cloud?’ are becoming more complex and pressing. The GVx Middle East Tech Summit, titled Digital Transformation in Action, assessed the practical and commercial implications of the debate, bringing together key industry decision-makers well-versed in understanding the challenges and opportunities of full digital transition.

Well-known for its end-to-end ecosystem of reliable, open standards-based solutions, Grass Valley joined forces with BroadcastPro to deliver an important closed-door discussion that focused on a highly practical agenda and assessed the most viable roadmaps for change.

New branding, new capabilities

Setting the scene for the debate, kick-start presentations from Louis Hernandez, Jr – founder, CEO and Managing Director of Black Dragon Capital – as well as the owner of Grass Valley and other top management, focused on the key criteria attracting Grass Valley to the Middle East market, as well as showcasing the company’s new branding.

“Digital transformation is full of surprises. We thought it would be the younger staff who’d be most interested, but it’s people in their 50s and 60s who’ve really led with this” – Ruba Ibrahim, Director of Operations, Al Arabiya

For Grass Valley, the region’s appeal is best summed up by the continuing positive outlook for growth, with world-class events such as Expo 2020 Dubai and the 2022 World Cup setting global enterprise benchmarks. Other factors include how the regional industry is pre-eminently in a state of transition, with new production complex and expensive, the rising costs of media rights, an explosion of distribution platforms and the marked rise of OTT services.

During this period of transition, Grass Valley says it is positioned to support media companies’ business transformation; efficiently create and distribute specialty content; unify linear, streaming and social workflows; eliminate the risk of new revenue models; and – critically – increase operating efficiencies.

Louis Hernandez, Jr, founder, CEO and Managing Director of Black Dragon Capital (BDC).

Tim Banks, Vice President of Sales for EMEA, made special reference to Grass Valley’s recent wins in the region, including Abu Dhabi Media’s investment in GV cameras, switchers, replay and IP infrastructure for Expo 2020. Other upcoming projects include Al Jazeera’s GV deployment for Studio 5, the first AMPP MSP (Managed Service Provider) agreement with AVC delivering remote production for regional sports events, and the 2022 World Cup’s adoption of GV cameras and switchers, as well as other big wins including Asharq in Saudi Arabia, participation in the Arab Cup in Qatar and the IBC Accelerator Projects (5G and AMPP) along with beIN, Ooredoo and Al Jazeera.

This was followed by two interesting case studies – one from Gordon Castle, SVP Technology and Operations EMEA Eurosport/ Discovery at Discovery Inc, who spoke about the use of cloud and IP technologies for their coverage of the Tokyo Olympics, and the other from Peter Van Dam, CEO and founder, AV Consulting, who spoke about partnering with Grass Valley to enable cloud-based remote sports production for leading clients in the Middle East.

Expert voices

Grass Valley also hosted a panel session moderated by Vijaya Cherian, Editor of BroadcastPro ME, published by CPI Trade Media. She presented the participants with three key questions, reflecting how cloud and IP solutions are frequently best suited for fast-tracking performance in a multiscreen culture, while also recognising the potential hurdles and watersheds.

  • What’s the best path to navigate towards a full digital transformation?
  • Should media companies migrate to cloud, IP or both?
  • Should media companies adopt private, public or hybrid cloud deployments?

In response to the first question, Hasan Sayed Hasan, Managing Director, Master Media, commented: “While many issues come to mind, we fundamentally have to ask: why are we doing it? What’s the benefit of that full digital transformation to the organisation?

“So many new solutions are now arriving after quite a few years of development, and we should all recognise that the cloud has already happened. It’s not on its way, it’s already here!” – Miljenko Logozar, co-founder and CEO, StoryDeck.io

“Once we can answer that question, the next aspect is leadership. The leadership must be prepared to explain the benefits of the transformation to the whole organisation. Everyone must understand it, and that means departments like Accounts, HR and Distribution, as well as Production. Without everyone onboard, the process simply won’t work.

Peter Van Dam shares a case study from Saudi Arabia with attendees.

“Training is also crucial here. It’s the key to empowering people across every different level in the business. My experience shows that typically there will be some junior people who will be antagonists, and they will be against the transformation, but if you can genuinely explain the reasons behind the changes, they can be brought onboard. So this is really all about ensuring good communication between silos, job descriptions and grades. Everyone has to know what the organisation is doing and why it’s doing it, because – and it’s vital to remember this – every change is also a cultural change. For it to work, to change the culture, everybody has to be aware of what’s happening and buy into that change.”

Apart from the efforts required to change, digital transformation offers certain benefits over traditional analogue approaches. These include increased working flexibility and more transparent costs and margins.

Peter Van Dam, CEO and founder, AV Consulting, explained: “I can now give an exact figure for what my projects tomorrow will cost me and tell you exactly what my overheads will be. Of course, this has great advantages for costing the service end-to-end and therefore gives me a better commercial edge. Also, I now have much greater freedom about where I choose to work. I’m no longer bound by any of the old constraints, and nor are the teams I need to work and collaborate with.

“Of course, it’s important to add that many of the old ways of working will continue for years. It doesn’t mean the end of broadcasting as we’ve known it; we’re simply choosing the parts of the AI mix that are of most use. We’re asking which aspects will empower performance across key areas and give us the best returns.”

Migrating: Where to and how?

Is it best to migrate to cloud, IP or both? Ruba Ibrahim, Director of Operations, Al Arabiya, believes that “while we might want to involve everyone in the decisionmaking process, there’s no doubt that democracy can make things very slow. Sometimes it really hinders the process. Convincing people is very time-consuming; everyone who’s been through the process knows that.”

“However, it’s also true that to be effective, the transformation has to be a full 360. If it is, and the word gets to all the teams and all the decision-makers, you can get some good surprises. For example, we thought it would be the younger staff who’d be most interested, but it’s often people in their 50s and 60s who’ve really led with this. They didn’t want to be left behind by the younger members of staff and were determined to challenge them, showing how good they can be when they combine all their experience with the new technology as well.

It doesn’t mean the end of broadcasting as we’ve known it; we’re simply choosing the parts of the AI mix that are of most use. We’re asking which aspects will empower performance across key areas and give us the best returns” – Peter Van Dam, CEO and founder, AV Consulting

“Of course, there have always been the operational challenges, such as the cost and the availability of the right bandwidths. So you need to ask if making the transition is really worth the cost. Plus, there’s also the human aspect to consider. Some people are afraid that digital transformation will cost them their jobs, but in fact this often isn’t the case. In reality, you just need people to be more creative and inventive, and it’s actually more of a challenge to find a very skilled human resources pool.”

Above, Miljenko Logozar and Ibrahim Nassar join the discussion virtually from Qatar; below, Tim Banks, VP of Sales for EMEA, GV, addresses the gathering.

Contributing virtually to the debate, Ibrahim Nassar, Manager of Broadcast Engineering, Al Jazeera, seconded this but added that the strategic angle is as important as the cultural angle.

“I think we need a mix of approaches – there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. I think it will be a long time before we are always in the cloud, and we have to understand what works best for every skillset and department. For example, we need to understand the needs of editorial, and in fact the needs of all our key stakeholders.

“The challenge is not in the technology, it’s in the cultural change that the transition implies, and that needs to be driven from above. This isn’t an overnight process, because in order to start the transformation, you need the full support of the people on the ground. That’s not to mention the cost – after all, even moving to IP is not always a cheap solution. All in all, there are a lot of factors to consider, so it’s critical that any business starts its transformational plan well in advance and plans practically, with a good lead time.”

Public, private or hybrid cloud?

What about the third question? As to whether companies should opt for private, public or hybrid cloud deployments, Miljenko Logozar, co-founder and CEO, StoryDeck.io, argued: “It’s really time that things like post-production and playout were moved to the cloud. So many new solutions are now arriving after quite a few years of development, and we should all recognise that the cloud has already happened. It’s not on its way, it’s already here!

“The fact is, we’ve all been busy doing our own things, and we didn’t notice what’s been happening in areas like content development. In the time that it took for many of us to discuss what to do next, many startups have already acquired half a billion users. All of these things have already happened, and if we don’t accept them here in broadcast, well, the internet definitely can.”

For Israel Esteban, Chief Technology Officer at beIN Media Group, “It all depends on timing and your situation – in other words, it depends on your needs at that moment. You can only really make the transition when it makes sense to do so. For instance, for two to three years we were not in the cloud, but at that time I didn’t feel we were missing anything. There simply isn’t a right or wrong answer, only what’s right or wrong for you.”

Apart from cost and the impact on organisational culture, Nabil El Madbek, Technology Projects Manager, Abu Dhabi Media, remarked that it’s “all about the workflows, and this can be a big challenge. We have to accept that sometimes we need a very specific focus, because one of the most practical and effective ways we can use this technology is by introducing new ways of handling production. If we ignore that, we are neglecting one of the principal benefits that the new technology can bring.”

Future thinking

It was clear from the panel session that as cloud adoption gathers pace, the debate around the role of AI and digital transformation is increasingly relevant. Grass Valley’s role is evolving as a leading presence driving the industry’s realignment and commitment to digital transition. This was well emphasised by Sydney Lovely, Chief Technology Officer, Grass Valley, who described the Grass Valley Media Universe as “a connected ecosystem for elastic media production and distribution”.

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