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Navigating Turbulent Technological Waters

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I recently returned to the UK from Paris, where I had spent the week with a some of my Ross Video colleagues exhibiting at the SATIS Expo, France's largest national broadcast and AV exhibition, writes Stuart Russell, EMEA Marketing Manager, Ross Video.

It was a busy and vibrant show – more so than usual, I think – with the usual mixture of visitors that ranged from senior executives working with national broadcasters to freelance cameramen and hobbyists. Hurtling my way back through the French countryside on an unusually prompt Eurostar, I concluded that the common thread binding these visitor groups together seems to be the same common thread that has run through all the exhibitions and trade shows we've attended this year: the desire to work more creatively, more efficiently and more cost effectively.

The buzz at the largest shows like NAB and IBC may still be around IP, but even the largest broadcasters will whisper behind their hands (when nobody is looking!) that their OpEx budgets are under pressure and they need to find ways of simplifying workflows and streamlining their operations. It's an interesting dichotomy: technology industries are usually looking 5-10 years ahead in order to keep the wheels of product development turning and customers need to be watching the horizon and planning for the future – that's just sensible business practice – but these same customers also tend to prefer jam today in preference to jam tomorrow when jam is being offered.

For all that we talk about IP and other emerging/immature technologies, I still think broadcasters and content creators are much more worried about the next 2-3 years than the 3-7 that will follow. Manufacturers of broadcast equipment therefore have an excellent opportunity to help customers respond to the creative, business and technical challenges they face short-to-medium term, and if those manufacturers also have longer-term offerings that customers can migrate to, all the better.

Another theme that cropped up again in Paris this year was 'single vendor sourcing'. It seems that customers are growing increasingly weary of trying to procure the solutions they need from multiple providers. I have great sympathy; it often feels like an interoperability minefield and nobody wants to make any incorrect purchasing decisions that cause downtime or operational headaches. There are several clear advantages to working with a single manufacturer with the breadth of product range a customer needs, the most obvious benefit being the single phone number required to negotiate the deal, do the deal, manage the commissioning and call for support – 'one throat to choke' as one of my colleagues wryly puts it.

And of course customers need to choose that throat wisely; our industry has again seen a great deal of merger and acquisition activity this year (Ross Video has been as prolific as anyone, here) but most of this seems to have been driven by shareholder expectation, boardroom politics or venture capitalism rather than a genuine concern for customer benefit and best interest. There aren't too many privately-owned manufacturers left in the broadcast industry – Ross must be one of only a handful – but I still believe their stability and long-term view matters when customers are trying to navigate turbulent technological waters.

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