Broadcasting, as we knew it in the 20th Century, lays lifeless in a hospital bed connected to more tubes and wires than tv sets that received its signals. Indeed, the days of radio waves delivering television feeds to mass audiences are all but over and replaced by digital infrastructures. Yet the act of broadcasting is alive and well.
What does it mean to broadcast in 2014? The likes of the old guard — the ones we actually call the “broadcasters” like American Broadcasting Company (ABC), the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)—they likely have one definition for what it means to broadcast that goes something like this:
we program great content to be watched on television, live or on demand, by millions of people.
There are smart people inside these organizations who realize the “be watched on television” part needs to be updated to “be watched anywhere on any device.” That initiative is in-progress as they witness consumption shifts among viewers. But while the “broadcasters” are preparing for consumption trends they are likely ignorant to another movement that’s beginning to sprout… and this one involves the first half of that definition, the part about “we program great content.”
The very idea of who a “broadcaster” is (the “we”) is about to change. It’s about to become you.
We’ve seen the internet pull this trick before. The mass democratization of the tools needed to create and deliver great content have fueled independent producers in industries ranging from video games to journalism. YouTube has solved video delivery. Six years ago the idea of a Multi-Channel Network (MCN) didn’t exist. Now it’s an entire industry that’s beginning to prosper outside of YouTube. But the democratization of the first part of the equation (creating quality video) hasn’t reached everyone because the tools are still too complex and the equipment costs are still too high. But the tipping point is near.
The ubiquity of (very) smart phones and powerful tablets, equipped with (lightweight) high-definition cameras and a new generation of video applications, are seeding a mobile revolution that will change what it means to broadcast. There was a time when the NewTek TriCaster was considered a huge step in the direction of giving the small guy the tools needed to create something that looked like television with multi-camera controls and broadcast graphics. But a TriCaster required thousands of dollars of equipment and a large amount of technical expertise. Not to mention it’s heavy. Now imagine a similar product in capabilities but more simple, free and running on your tablet. I’m not describing one app in particular. I’m describing an entire category of software that’s coming soon to an app store near you.
2014 technical developments will setup 2015 as the year of the “mobile creative.”
The timeline looks something like this:
- In 2012 it became easy (and mainstream) to take an amazing picture with your phone and share it instantly with the world.
- In 2013 it became easy to take an amazing (short) video and post this to online networks.
- In 2014 (now) you’ll see an industry launch around supporting the mobile broadcaster. The costs of equipment, software and services will become more affordable.
- In 2015 it will be easy to compile, stylize and broadcast television-like video. Groups of (regular) people will offer full video content networks that feel like a television channel. We’ll consume these channels on any device, including our actual televisions. The blur between a CBS and community-driven channel begins as we flip through channels on our IP-delivered streams. The content will slowly improve coming from the small guys. But the small guys will have a larger army and they’ll be unbelievably quick to post full broadcast packages of breaking news.
- By 2016, the graphic packages of Joe Schmo (tickers, transitions and all) will dazzle every bit as much as MSNBC’s. There will be large stock graphic packages that are available at the ease of an in-app purchase to customize your high definition video.
- And by 2017, the bandwidth and data compression will widely be in place to do all of this live — in real-time — from your mobile device.
It sounds like a lot of work to broadcast. But it won’t be any harder than me writing this post — finding the right words, searching for links to reference to add context, finding images to add visuals, editing for clarity. And much in the way Medium has redefined what it means to blog by simplifying the writing process along with offering collections to bolster the communal voice, broadcast will take on a new meaning soon. It will become personal, both in the context of production but also in the feel of the content. It won’t always be pretty as we move from simple video capture to fully produced video segments on the fly, but a door is opening. And that entrance reads “Welcome Broadcasters” and we’re all invited.