Paul Wallis, sales director, MEA, Imagine Communications
Naresh Subherwal, managing director, Middle East, SAM
Tom Cordiner, vice president sales, EMEA, Avid
S: How are you finding the market for workflow solutions in the Middle East?
Subherwal: The marketplace for workflow solutions in the Middle East has been growing over the past couple of years. Our broadcast customers have been opting for end-to-end workflow solutions to implement more cost effective production environments across their news and sports applications.
In addition, there has been an increased requirement of integrated playout solutions as additional channels are being launched in the region.
Despite the challenging geopolitical environment in the Middle East, especially in 2015, there has been solid growth in the demand for workflow solutions.
Cordiner: The Middle East is one of our biggest regions in EMEA, and we have seen sustained growth for a number of years. We are privileged to work with all the major news, sports and entertainment media companies, and with the growth of Avid Everywhere, plus the increasing adoption of our Media I Central platform, our footprint continues to develop.
Wallis: The demand for workflow solutions in the region is on the increase, but there is a real demand for more market education. Broadcasters are not clearly aware, or perhaps not clearly comfortable, with the possibilities and potential improvements that modern, software-oriented workflows can deliver.
If we look at some of our recent wins, the tendency is towards high performance islands rather than a more all-embracing new look at workflows. It’s often about adding more channels to the traditional playout service.
So our task – and that of the whole industry – is to reinforce the message that the move to IP connectivity and software workflows is the once in a lifetime opportunity to completely rethink the way we do things.
How does the Middle East compare to the rest of the world in terms of workflow solutions?
Cordiner: It’s a pretty diverse region but the majority of countries utilise most software applications across our artist, media and storage suites. We are also having increasingly frequent conversations with our customers about how they can incorporate our studio suite applications such as Avid Maestro, Avid TD Control, Avid Spark and Avid ProSet.
Wallis: There are some real areas of forward-looking excellence in the region. EMEA is in many ways leading the world in cloud-based workflows for disaster recovery, for example. As broadcasters have realised the critical importance of business continuity, so we have been able to offer affordable and workable solutions in the cloud.
As I mentioned earlier, for other software-centric workflows the take-up has not been as fast as it has been in North America and Europe. But we are busy with proof of concept projects in the region, and I have no doubt that it will catch up very quickly.
Subherwal: The broadcasters in the Middle East do have different requirements from those in other parts of the world, such as the Americas, Europe or Asia, in that the number of direct-to-home channels is still growing versus that of pay-tv. This means that traditional playout and integrated playout solutions remain in high demand and not so much in the cloud playout environment at the moment. That said, on the news and sports side, the requirements in the Middle East are very similar to that across the world, with the Middle East being the centre of several news stories on a daily basis. This means that news production and playout has been in high demand by viewers as well as the very lucrative sports industry.
Which of your workflow solutions are performing best in the Middle East?
Subherwal: Our integrated playout solutions have been performing well in the Middle East. Our established ICE family of playout solutions including ICE LE for entry level automated channel playout, ICE SDC software defined channel solution for virtualised IP playout and ICE IP automated channel playout over IP are extremely suitable for all integrated playout applications including direct-to-home, video on demand and streaming applications.
On the live production side, Kahuna remains the flagship medium to large production switcher in the Middle East. We are extremely excited by the potential of our brand new Kula 1-2M/E production switcher now launched in the region.
Cordiner: News, production asset management and increasingly MAM are central to the Avid deployments in the region. We are also starting to add additional software modules from our Alliance partners that are connected to and certified on our Media I Central platform to help further drive workflow efficiency for our customers.
Wallis: Traditional playout is still very strong for us, as broadcasters seek to add channels and new services. But the number of proof of concept projects we have under way, showing how broadcasters can work more effectively and save on capital expenditure by using virtualisation and the cloud, suggest that the region is set to leap to the forefront of modern workflows. In fact in a survey of more than 700 media professionals conducted by Imagine Communications at the end of 2015, 88% of respondents from the Middle East said they had started down a path toward virtualising at least some of their operations.
What growth potential do you see in the region?
Cordiner: Despite elements of economic uncertainty relating to the worldwide drop in oil prices our customers and partners are continuing to invest in our Media I Central platform and I see growth coming mainly from two areas: 1. Continued investment in upgrading to HD and 4k across the workflow and 2. The increasing ability now to add other applications from third party companies that are certified via our Connectivity Toolkit to help streamline their ongoing operating costs.
Wallis: We are very close to the tipping point where everyone will need to get into software-defined networks, along with the transition to IP. This is a transformational step for a business so you do need widespread understanding, which is why continuing education at every level of the market is critical. We are playing our part by working with our customers and resellers in the region to ensure that they are completely familiar with the concepts, the practicalities and the benefits.
One important part of this process of reassuring end users that solutions are practical and deliverable is to make it clear that open standards still allow them to choose the best of breed applications. That is why we were one of the founding members of AIMS, the Alliance for IP Media Solutions. Rapidly growing in numbers, the alliance brings together leading vendors to promote the use of open standards to ensure interoperability.
Subherwal: SAM has been investing heavily in the Middle East, especially over the last year. We have moved to a new facility in Dubai and we have hired several key resources over the last couple of months including myself as managing director in the Middle East and Sherif Shaker as regional sales manager. This investment is a proof of our solid and unparalleled commitment to our broadcast and production customers in the region. We believe the region is one of the most viable worldwide for us.
What is your flagship product in the workflow area, and what differentiates it?
Subherwal: Our Enterprise sQ fast-turnaround news and sports production systems are built for today’s multimedia, multi-platform world, delivering the fastest-to-air workflow from ingest to screen. Enterprise sQ is seamlessly integrated with SAM’s LiveTouch sports highlighting and replay solution, providing fast highlights selection, playlist editing and live playout control.
Secondly, our ICE Channel-in-a-Box solution provides all the operational, technical, regulatory and commercial functionality required for broadcast playout. ICE is integrated with SAM’s Morpheus playout automation system, which is perfect for enterprise-scale use for national broadcasts, sports, network origination, centralcasting and business continuity.
Thirdly, SAM’s Momentum workflow automation is the most capable in the market allowing control of any manufacturer’s device within its highly flexible and easy to modify workflows. It’s designed from the ground up to deal with enterprise wide Media Asset Management and Workflow automation needs of modern media and broadcast companies.
Wallis: The essence of a software-centric approach is that you have a solid platform into which you can slot the modules you need to achieve the workflows that best support your enterprise. As a foundational product, our Zenium platform is absolutely critical to the future.
First, it is a technology platform on which specialist products can be constructed. So, for example, at NAB we introduced EPIC, a new multiviewer platform designed to display any signals on any displays, running as a dedicated appliance (as software on a PC), virtualised in the data centre, or even in the cloud. And because it is a software solution we can add new formats and signal types with ease: EPIC can include Ultra HD signals in a display today, and if you find the need to monitor 8k video in the future that will simply be a matter of adding another line in a look-up table.
On the broader scale, Zenium allows us to bring complex workflows together in a software-defined network. It provides the core functionality like managing virtual machines, allocating storage and defining user experiences. And because it is software it means we can customise solutions incredibly quickly – or customers can create their own workflows simply and securely – allowing broadcasters to be much more agile, responding instantly to market trends.
Cordiner: It all starts with the Avid Media I Central platform which provides our customers with an operating system that allows them to connect the creative part of their business with their distribution and monetisation teams.
The main differentiator is that our platform is entirely open and we are seeing rapid adoption of Third party technologies and applications onto the platform.
No-one else in the media industry is truly able to offer such an end to end solution. Here at Avid we know we are able to help our customers to connect with the audience in meaningful and economically compelling ways.