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Broadcasters Need to Take Risks to Succeed

By | March 4, 2009

      A number of leading executives said advances in technology are dramatically changing the broadcast landscape in the Middle East and broadcasters may be in for a tough time in the region.
          The proliferation of new technologies as well as the different ways people are consuming content, means the environment for broadcasters is coming ever more complex. “We have too many of everything,” Riyadh Najm, president, Arab States Broadcasting Union (ASBU), said during the “Technology Update in Challenging Times” session. “We have too many technologies. There are too many business interests. The situation is so complex in this part of the world, more so than other regions. We have a number of competing technologies. Broadcasters need to adapt and find new ways of doing business,”
          Even though these are difficult economic times for players on the media landscape, Hassan Chahine, CTO of Dubai Media International, said broadcasters must adapt if they are to survive. “Broadcasters have been questioning how to invest in their business this year. Broadcasters have to think about how to maintain their business,” he said. “In terms of technology, we cannot live in a comfort zone. Today, you have to take risks and go outside your comfort zone. The economic situation will create a new philosophy in technology investment and development. I think the economic crisis is a good opportunity for new media platforms.”
          One of the common themes of the panel was that broadcasters need to embrace change and take risks with technology. Mike Whittaker, vice president, broadcast operations and technology, ShowTime Arabia, said, “There is a need to invest in the downturn so you can position yourselves for the upturn. We have to start thinking outside the box. You need to see a closer relationship with operators, manufacturers and software. We need to see solutions that allow us to do more with technology.”
          Sharad Sadhu, technical director of the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union, echoed these sentiments. “The modern trend is to serve the customers through the network they are on. The shift of the way we consume is significant but not substantial. Broadcasters need to look at the new requirements of audiences and which could be a different content model. We need to examine these shifts,” he said.

      Better Training Needed

          More skilled engineers and technologists in this area also would help broadcasters. Many speakers on the panel spoke about the need for increased numbers of engineers in the region. “There is a lack of training and training opportunities. All the players need to look at how to improve training. From outside the region, I see this as an important requirement,” Sadhu said,
          “There is a skills shortage in terms of engineers. We need the broadcast engineer mindset with the [information technology] discipline. We need some good training capabilities in the region. There are long overdue,” said Whittaker.
          “The business model is now a combination of the technology, the financial situation as well as the business resources available. It is the combination of everything together that makes a plan successful,” Najm said.
          Roger Stanwell, CEO, International Association for Broadcasting Manufacturers, said “in a strange way” the economic crisis could help broadcasters, as it could sharpen their focus in terms of delivering content. “Broadcasters are being expected to change the fundamentals of their business at a breakneck speed. You have the advent of pay-TV as well as the changing nature of the needs of the consumer. Broadcasting is very much now a chain management business. There are fundamental changes in the way broadcasters deliver content.”

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