LCL recently hosted a talk show on digital transformation in the media and broadcasting industry. During the discussion, topics such as media technology and innovation were discussed, with experts from VRT and DPG Media sharing inspiring practical examples and relevant trends. In addition, Venly, a blockchain organisation, spoke about the web3 opportunities it foresees in this sector. LCL's Media Expert Robert van Beurden was also present to interpret the role of a data center in this context. It made for an engaging discussion, led by presenter Valerie Thys, and provided a behind-the-scenes look into media companies.
The impetus for the talk show is the enormous change that the national and international landscape of media organisations and broadcasters has undergone in recent years. Like many other industries, they are in the midst of an accelerated digital transformation. The ever-growing digital content offerings are creating more and more competition, forcing organisations to respond in a timely manner. Streaming platforms such as Netflix and Spotify, as well as social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube, are investing heavily in increasing their market share in order to attract the most viewers and Internet users. The battle for advertising revenue also remains fierce. How are media companies dealing with these trends? What innovations are they investing in? And how can a MediaHub ensure that we can continue to play a role at both national and international level in the future?
Innovation as an essential foundation
The discussion quickly concluded how important it is to create space for innovation. Dieter Boen, Manager of Innovation at VRT, sees many opportunities for media production. “We're going to make new forms of media. However, the way they’re made is also subject to change. I note that we are very actively involved in technologies that evolve from gaming. New production methods that are more software-based. I think that's the next wave of innovation, and that it will be much more about format and production.”
Given that creating innovation is a priority, it is important to be clearly focused on this. Sven Van Vlem, Head of Technology News City at DPG Media: “It's important to instil a start-up culture in your organisation so that small groups can launch innovation projects more easily.” Boen: “At VRT, there are two people who constantly focus their attention on this issue. That adds up to around 150 cases over the last few years, with some of these innovations becoming part of the essential processes.”
From web2 to web3
One such innovative start-up is Venly. Yan Ketelers, CMO at Venly: “As a blockchain technology provider, we help companies make the transition from web2 to web3, known to the general public as blockchain and the metaverse. This transition signifies a new way of marketing as well as different business models, because everything in web3 is about customer centricity. We specialise in working with media organisations to think about what products they can implement for web3. An example of this found in the United States is a streaming app that wants to turn its subscriptions into NFTs to ensure that they receive a royalty fee each time one is sold. This provides a totally new business model in relation to memberships.”
The importance of trying things out: no pain, no gain
It raises the question of whether the media and broadcasting industry should jump on the Web3 bandwagon right now. Boen thinks so and says that, although they are still experimenting at VRT, the media maker is currently leading the way. “What I've learned is that creating innovation in a lab and then implementing it rarely works. So it's important to get everyone involved within the company. Applying innovation is much easier in digital and small productions, of course. However, these small innovations then flow back into TV and the mainstream. Our innovation strategy is also: no pain, no gain. We're going to try out a lot of things. If people feel there is value, then it will roll out naturally. If there's no value in it, you’ll soon find out. You need to try things hands-on as soon as possible.”
Van Vlem agrees. “We are taking a lot of things from the gaming world, but also from the blockchain. We are looking at how to implement this in our organisation. We can learn from other sectors how to create new forms of content in the media sector.”
3D technology, virtual studios and the metaverse
Examples of innovation projects in media companies and broadcasters were also discussed. Boen: “We are obviously concerned with production and production techniques. For example, we worked with VR and AR for a while. That same team is now working on 3D technology, and we are also doing a lot with virtual studios. These are actually the same gaming engines as in Fortnite; we use this to make programs. We are also looking at what role we can play in the metaverse and whether a link can be made to NFTs. And, of course, how to try this out and what brand of VRT fits it. We also have a number of innovative projects underway to combat disinformation.”
More and more software services
The fact that software is increasingly being used in the media and broadcast industry rather than hardware leads to a future full of opportunities. Boen: “The advantage of this is that you can come up with the craziest productions, without having to consider infrastructures. If we go more in the direction of software services instead of hardware, and can share these with each other, this could yield huge dividends. That's how Van Vlem sees the future, too: “Where we used to have everything in-house, we can now decentralise capabilities through the cloud. Blockchain and NFTs are also about decentralisation, and we need to extend this philosophy in media technology.”
Data center as a neutral place and essential hub
Data centers therefore have a lot to offer media companies and broadcasters. Robert van Beurden, Media Expert at LCL: “A data center is a neutral place. If we perceive that certain services are needed, we will look to see if we already have them in our data center or if we can introduce them. So we provide the connectivity, not only nationally but also internationally. A data center is the place for cloud solutions, even multi-cloud solutions. Moreover, a data center can provide these services in a sustainable and climate-neutral way by using green energy, for example.
That too is becoming increasingly difficult for broadcasters to do in-house. In addition, facilitators such as an NEP and EMG are very important to broadcasters and the MediaHub ecosystem. We are the neutral party where everything can be found.”
Collaboration between Flemish media companies
Those big national and international plans obviously also require a lot of money. Fortunately, the Flemish government sees this too. In a video interview, Benjamin Dalle, Flemish Minister of Brussels, Youth and Media says: “We want to get media players to work together more intensively. That is why we have allocated 35 million from the Flemish government for media innovation. MediaHub is one of the projects through which we want to ensure that the cloud is used to organise good links between media companies. For us, that is the essence of innovation: collaboration between Flemish media companies in a digital and innovative way. This Flemish relaunch program is quite unique in that it is all-encompassing for media innovation. Its purpose is to better equip Flemish media companies to deal with international competition.”
MediaHub puts Belgium on the map
LCL is closely involved in the MediaHub initiative. Van Beurden: “This is something we embrace wholeheartedly. We can act as an intermediary and introduce new parties to join. The MediaHub ecosystem provides organisations with access to a wide range of services. You don't have to have it in-house anymore because you can turn the services on and off at will. It provides greater opportunities for on-demand services, scalability and cost savings. Belgium is centrally located, so international parties have good reason to retain a point of presence here. If this is successful, it might even take on a European perspective. MediaHub will put Belgium on the map.”
In any case, the talk show made it clear that, although innovation is never easy, progressive plans are nonetheless being elaborated and implemented. In what manner this will continue to develop, the future will tell. What there is absolutely no doubt about, however, is that a lot is going to change in the media and broadcasting industry in the coming years.
For those who missed the talk show, or would like to see it again: you can watch it online here.