Steve Russell, Chief Product Officer, Red Bee Media
As the dust settles, I feel like many of us are coming down from the euphoria of a successful IBC2022, while perhaps dealing with the trauma of airport angst. What a fantastic few days and an exciting time to work in M&E!
It was an excellent show for the Red Bee Media team. We got to reconnect with customers; we announced the extension of important partners, such as BT Sport; and the launch of our move into the FAST (Free Ad-Supported Streaming TV) market with the expansion of Red Bee Pulse.
We also had the opportunity to partner on the 2022 Devoncroft Executive Summit at IBC, an exciting event bringing together industry thought leaders.
I’ve been reflecting on some of the key themes explored during the Devoncroft event and Red Bee Media’s role as the leading service provider to our industry. I’ve compiled my top five takeaways below:
We love to talk about change, but let’s start by acknowledging a constant. Multi-platform delivery is the game that we’re all in. It’s been a constant at #1 or #2 on Devoncroft’s Big Broadcast Survey for over ten years. This year it’s only been usurped by IP Networking and Delivery (sound similar?). At Red Bee, we placed a huge bet several years ago that we should replace our traditional bespoke customer platforms with an IP-based software-powered stack that would enable multi-platform delivery for our customers for years to come. That bet felt risky back then and has certainly been a difficult transition to pull off. But today, as major broadcasters migrate successfully to our next generation product set, it feels like a solid place to be. We are built for scale and welcome conversations with anyone seeking to ‘power-up’ multi-platform capability.
Being back at IBC in-person has cemented the importance of being with colleagues, customers, influencers, leaders, and friends, old and new. But being apart the last few years due to the pandemic has only amplified the market’s pre-existing skills and resource gaps. As an industry, we haven’t done enough to address the lack of diversity that’s so evident on the show floor, including helping to upskill young and hungry engineering and operational talent. There are outstanding examples that buck the trend (we see you RISE!). Simultaneously the breadth of technical and operational skills needed has widened beyond all recognition. We believe that shared resources are one powerful answer to this significant problem. The service provider model is built on a one-for-many concept by its very nature, meaning our customers can focus their time, energy and resource on business-impactful tasks, such as hiring and recruitment. Our services alleviate commodity-centric challenges and free up our customers.
The term ‘FAST’ was barely known when we last gathered at IBC in 2019 – I understand that the first documented use of the term was in January of that year. But how things change! The FAST conference on Thursday during IBC highlighted the most important factors that are fostering growth:
- Smart TV predominance
- The volume of free premium content
- The shift of advertising toward digital and addressable
The motives for innovating in this space vary. Still, it’s clear that FAST is establishing itself as the fourth major business pillar for our industry alongside classic broadcast, D2C and rights syndication. Broadcasters and content owners talk about the need to ‘ride the clutch’ in terms of how hard it is to accelerate for the new while retaining traditional revenue lines. At Red Bee, we see this as ‘convergence’. It’s not about pursuing one business model in isolation but the ability to work the different routes to audience and revenue in a smart and agile way. Service providers like Red Bee can help in this strategic journey. We enable the services while our customers focus on where the value lies in content, channel strategies, audience, and brand evolution. The major theme explored in our most recent vision paper, “Why gamble on an uncertain media future? – Reducing risk and creating the cost certainty needed to fuel innovation and growth.” (Download available on the right side of the page.)
Riding the economic rollercoaster
During the Devoncroft summit, we saw a telling graphic with Order Books at a seemingly glorious growth curve of 9% up but mirrored by a crushing reality that operating costs are growing at 12-15%. The message seems clear – we are in for some difficult times. The economic headwinds are all too evident, and the position is exacerbated by the financial realities of investment in D2C, labour shortages and supply-chain challenges. Part of the answer must be to focus on agility and a hard drive for business results and avoid the limitations of long-winded procurement cycles where possible. At Red Bee, we won’t be isolated from these challenges, but we can help our customers take cost out of their business. Partnering with a service provider for some heavy-weight broadcast business needs in playout, distribution, access, and media movement can significantly reduce headcount and CAPEX while offering lower operational costs over time.
Today’s media company leaders are more laser focused on business goals and results – technology is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Some interesting soundbites that I picked up during the Devoncroft summit to illustrate this are:
- A question during the event was, “Where would you invest next if you were given a billion dollars?” To which answers included: “Content, probably, in reality” (a major broadcaster) and “People, training” (to general panel agreement.)
- A recent survey asked, “What is the relationship between technology and finance in your organisation?” 60% of respondents answered, “Little or none”
- President and CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, David Zaslav, shared extensive comments in Warner Bros Discovery Q2 2022 earning report. But how many times is technology mentioned? The answer? Once.
These examples highlight the real things that light our audiences up – narratives, drama, excitement, talent, art, music, goals, heroes, laughter, energy, beauty, danger, information, debate, surprise, love and all the rest. We at Red Bee believe that by taking care of some of the risk factors in bringing video to screen flawlessly, our customers can thrive in being the very best in what they do in attracting and keeping those audiences.
If you are interested in how managed services can work in partnership with your business to drive agility, efficiency, and results, we’d love to talk to you. Our recent paper also sheds more detail on why we think the managed service model is more important than ever to the M&E industry’s future.
I hope you also had an awesome IBC and that you managed to navigate a way back home. We look forward to getting together with everyone soon!