Writing for Forbes Technology Council, Ian McDonough, CEO at Blackbird delves into how the pandemic has accelerated digital behaviours, and how Blackbird fits into the new status quo.
The technology industry has casually used the phrase “next generation” for years without ever spelling out what it actually means. “Next generation” is lazy marketing phraseology that has come to simply mean an upgrade, the latest version, the newest iteration. If it’s not groundbreaking or innovative, no big deal. But in the age of Covid, “next generation” is yesterday’s news.
The crushing blow to business caused by the pandemic means companies must return stronger. There’s a pressing need to catch up on lost revenue but without investing heavily. In the media industry, the pandemic has also exposed the means to do this.
It needs leapfrog tech. Let’s define what that is.
What Is Leapfrog Technology?
Leapfrogging is when an actor starts from an inferior position and overcomes the competition in one bound. It stands in contrast to conventional modes of development that tend to be incremental, gradual and evolutionary. It is typically a breakthrough event — an invention or application of a new technology that creates the conditions for the leap to occur. The idea has been studied as an economic model in which countries or businesses can bypass key stages and hurdle past the opposition into the lead.
The main use case is the widespread penetration of cell phones throughout parts of Africa and Southeast Asia. Adoption of mobile devices and mobile broadband took off rapidly in certain societies there without having to take the intermediate steps of investment in infrastructure like underground coaxial cabling. The introduction of wireless technology did not depend on legacy hardware, allowing certain countries to catch up in the field of digital communications.
According to Forbes contributor Francois Botha, “By 2020, sub-Saharan Africa will have more than half a billion unique mobile subscribers, making the continent the fastest growing area for mobile technology, and establishing Africa as an emerging platform for social and commercial innovation.”
Similarly, thanks to leapfrog technology, the conditions are now primed for the media and entertainment industry to vault out of the past.
The Status Quo Has Changed
Coronavirus has accelerated digital behaviors. In its Q3 2020 State of Streaming report (via TV Tech), Conviva estimates that streaming video viewing time rose 57% globally, year-over-year.
Media owners from Walt Disney on down are restructuring their entire output around direct-to-consumer services over the internet. Watching people play video games has emerged as one of the biggest drivers of online bandwidth. Overall viewing to Twitch has soared over 100%, year-over-year.
With all this comes demanding expectations from consumers for better than broadcast quality. That means no delay, no glitches, superb video and audio quality and, increasingly, the ability to personalize the content.
Nor does it stop there. In short order, content owners and network operators will look to monetize investment in 5G mobile networks by offering real-time interactive experiences such as sports betting, multiple choice of angles to watch a live event and ultra-high-definition virtual reality.
Yet any such endeavour is critically undermined when reliant on legacy production technology. Any setup based on hardware locked into traditional facilities is fatally encumbered by inflexible and time-consuming workflows. Remote collaboration — in which production crews can be located separately from the event and even from each other to gain huge time and cost efficiencies — is a non-starter with legacy gear.
If media has to be routed between production applications over anything other than the internet, the outcome will be deleteriously expensive.
The competition is waiting to pounce.
Producing exponentially more content and better content at the speed which consumers demand is hard — if you don’t have leapfrog tech.
Leapfrog tech for the video production industry is software tools and services that can be accessed in the cloud from literally any desktop via a web browser. Leapfrog tech barely leaves a footprint in energy consumption or processing power but delivers rich media to the user lightning fast and at scale.
Writing On The Wall
There’s no magic here. There’s no secret recipe reserved for an elite few. The answer lies in plain sight and uses the protocols and open standards of the web.
Elaborating on the concept of leapfrogging, Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz co-authored a paper illustrating how a firm with an “arbitrarily small headstart can pre-empt its rivals” by using R&D to jump ahead. Stiglitz suggested that any company behind the play can use information to their advantage. They can use the failures and successes exhibited in the market, see what works and what doesn’t and skip the deployment of intermediate stages by adopting winning solutions to catch up and overtake.
The biggest impact on the media industry’s survival in 2021 will not be Covid-19. Even as we emerge from the pandemic, crowds return to live events and work resumes to a degree of normality, the global and individual response to saving the planet should move front and center.
That’s leapfrog tech.
Blackbird is best-of-breed
Jon Hanford - Group CTO, Deltatre