Free to air: Q4 broadcast investment plans

Noorsat, AMG and Live reveal Q4 technology investment strategies.
Afzal Lakdawala, director of broadcasting services, Arab Media Group.
Afzal Lakdawala, director of broadcasting services, Arab Media Group.
Omar Shoter, CEO, Noorsat.
Omar Shoter, CEO, Noorsat.
Abdul Hadi al Sheikh, Managing director and CEO, LIVE.
Abdul Hadi al Sheikh, Managing director and CEO, LIVE.

Share asks three of the Middle East broadcast industry’s top purchasing managers what they will be spending their cash on in the coming months.

HD migration will dictate spend

Afzal lakdawala, Director of broadcast services, Arab Media Group.

We won’t be spending anything much for the remainder of the year, largely because we have already set up a brand new facility that can support around six to seven channels, although we are currently using it for just three channels.

We do have plans to expand in the future, but these will not be rolled out this year. We already have the necessary infrastructure in place for our current needs, but we might look to make a few small purchases along the way. That will be dependent on whether we launch some new channels, however.

We are likely to do some upgrades next year, but what precisely those are will depend on which channels we launch.

We don’t have an OB van at the moment so that would certainly be one of the possibilities that we may investigate. We also don’t have a DSNG van either, so that could be another option.

Our current infrastructure is largely in standard definition. If and when we decide to migrate to HD, we will have to upgrade our transmission systems as well, so that we can broadcast in full HD.

We have some HD cameras and we do all our promos and packaging in HD, but the transmission is still in SD.

So we have a portion of our system that is already HD-ready and our staff are familiar with it.

We will only have to upgrade a few things in order to get our system ready. The non-linear Final Cut Pro system that we have is already HD ready, so if we had to, we could probably go HD today.

Our servers are also HD-compatible, so it’s not going to be much of a task to fill in the gaps when we decide to go HD from end-to-end.

Gearing up for HD transmission

Omar Shoter CEO, Noorsat.

If we are transmitting a high definition TV (HDTV) channel on behalf of a client then we have to be able to upgrade our equipment to do that.

We are preparing for that now and by the end of the year we will be able to transmit in HD across the board.

We always look to buy from the highest quality vendors from the US and Europe. There aren’t too many choices to make. We have to follow the standards required for upgrading to HD.

We will be going to IBC – it is always helpful to see what the various manufacturers have to offer. This will help us expand our options for equipping our teleports with the most efficient transmission equipment possible.

The European suppliers are geographically closer to our region and they often have a better understanding of local industry requirements.

Many of them have worked here for some time and have offices located in various countries and they do tend to respond faster than suppliers based in countries that are further away from the Middle East, in terms of servicing, maintenance and aftersales support.

Stocking the tech locker ahead of a bumper season of sport

Abdul Hadi al Sheikh, Managing director and CEO, LIVE.

We are in the planning phase of an expansion at the moment. We are hoping to add two new outside broadcast vehicles to our existing fleet and we are upgrading some of our current infrastructure as well.

The good thing about this process is that it involves the entire chain of broadcast services. There is not one particular vendor involved – we have different production chains to look at from cameras, to vision mixers to audio mixers and intercom systems – the entire OB kit. That means we will be interested in speaking to lots of different vendors so we can achieve the international best practices for our vans.

Based on the capacity of our current technology and our schedule for the coming year, we will need to expand our infrastructure. There are some major events coming to the region in the next three to five years and we need to be prepared.

We must reflect the significance of all these events in the quality of the productions. We have to flex our muscles and that is why having the right technology and infrastructure in place is a prerequisite.

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is a very special event in terms of the model and the structure. We have an ongoing – and strong – relationship with Abu Dhabi Motorsport Management (ADMM), which is managing the track and the Grand Prix.

We will be working with them extensively producing the supporting events during the week of the race. There are also ongoing talks over whether we want to shoot the event in HD, though there is still no final decision. The media centre at the track is also still in development.

We’ll be at IBC – it’s always a big show for us. It tends to provide more focus on this region than NAB, partly for geographical reasons, but also because this market tends to adopt European formats and broadcasting standards.

NAB and IBC tend to be the big months for the vendors and new projects are usually linked to the product releases that are announced at these shows.

We are very keen to develop the local talent market to match the quality that we are aiming for. This takes time but we are sure that with the right people and the right technology we will achieve this.

Year on year broadcast technology sales growth 2008-2009

Although the rate of growth may have slowed, the broadcast technology sector is continuing to expand despite the economic downturn.

The IABM’s quarterly Industry Index shows that the market has maintained it value with global annual sales in excess of $10 billion.

Encouragingly, the slowdown has only generated one quarter without double-digit growth.

The next quarter of 2009 is also historically the most profitable with post-IBC sales generating the largest profits in previous years.

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