When Will Broadcast Engineers Be Replaced as Key Decision Makers?

Posted by Joe Zaller
Jul 12 2013

“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
– Mark Twain

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This is the sixth in a series of articles about some of the findings from Devoncroft’s 2013 Big Broadcast Survey (BBS), a global study of broadcast industry trends, technology purchasing plans, and benchmarking of broadcast technology vendor brands. Nearly 10,000 broadcast professionals in 100+ countries took part in the 2013 BBS, making it the largest and most comprehensive market study ever conducted in the broadcast industry. 

 

In a previous article we discussed how the “transition to file based operations” has become increasingly important to broadcasters and media companies over the past five years, and is now ranked as the #2 trend in the 2013 BBS Broadcast Industry Global Trend Index.

The transition to file-based operations has a number of significant implications for both broadcasters and technology vendors.

A primary benefit of file-based workflows is increased operational efficiency, which our research shows is now one of the primary drivers of broadcast technology purchasing.  In many cases, increased operational efficiency and saving cost is more important than cutting-edge technology.

In response to this trend, vendors have beefed up their software offerings, and many are working to port functionality that has traditionally been performed in hardware to software-based systems running on generic IT hardware.  Our research shows that as a result of this, vendors predict that the mix of products they sell is likely to shift in favor of software versus hardware.

The shift of many products from hardware to software products beg the question of whether the background and job title of the decision makers will shift as well. Ever since the beginning of file-based systems, industry participants have been predicting that traditional broadcast engineers will be replaced by IT personnel.

What do technology vendors think?

As part of the 2013 BBS, we asked more than 1,000 executives of broadcast technology vendors who they see as the key decision maker today, and who they believe this will be in 2-3 years’ time.

The results, shown below, reveal that vendors believe that a power shift within their customer base is coming over the next several years.

 

2013 BBS -- Vendors which category of buyer is most important

 

 

Today, vendors see engineering staff as their most important customers, followed by operations, IT, and finance personnel, but they predict the power of the engineer as decision maker will decline in favor of not only operations, but also IT departments and finance personnel.

These findings appear to be consistent with the changing priorities of broadcast technology buyers illustrated in the 2013 BBS Broadcast Industry Global Trend Index.  It stands to reason that as technology buyers complete their HD build-outs, their commercial focus is shifting towards achieving operational efficiencies and generating new revenue streams.

Although broadcast engineers are still perceived by vendors to be the top dog when it comes to making procurement decisions, they also believe that changing customer priorities will erode this position and shift decision making power to other departments.

The demise of the broadcast engineer as key decision maker has been long-predicted by industry pundits as IT technology has permeated the broadcast industry.

Is now the time when this will actually happen?

Given the fact that we ask this question in the context of both what’s happening today and what respondents predict about the future, the answer to this question depends in large part on the clarity or cloudiness of the technology vendor’s crystal ball.

Because we’ve been asking this same question to vendors for several years, it’s now possible to go back and review the answers and compare them to future predictions.

The chart below consolidates the responses to this question for the past four years.

 

2013 BBS -- Vendors which category of buyer is most important -- 2010-2013

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Notice the similarity in the way this question has been answered since 2010.  In fact, the results from 2010 – 2013 are nearly identical.

In other words, for the past four years vendors have been predicting that by 2012-2013 the importance of engineers as key buyers would have diminished considerably in favor of other departments, particularly IT.

However, in 2013 vendors ascribe the same importance to engineers as they did in 2010.

What’s going on?  It is likely that three years ago engineers were seen by vendors as potentially losing out to operations and IT staff because they required new skills.  However it’s apparent that in the intervening timeframe, broadcast engineers have sharpened their IT and networking skills, and perhaps consolidated their position within their organizations.  Another possibility is that respondents tend to over-predict the velocity of change in the market.  Or perhaps it’s a combination of the two.

Whatever the reason, it appears that as Mark Twain might have said: “reports of the demise of broadcast engineers have been greatly exaggerated.”

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The information in this article is based on select findings from the 2013 Big Broadcast Survey (BBS), a global study of broadcast industry trends, technology purchasing plans, and benchmarking of broadcast technology vendor brands. Nearly 10,000 broadcast professionals in 100+ countries took part in the 2013 BBS, making it the largest and most comprehensive market study ever conducted in the broadcast industry. The BBS is published annually by Devoncroft Partners.

Unless otherwise specified, all data in this article measures the responses of all non-vendor participants in the 2013 BBS, regardless of factors such as organization type, organization size, job title, purchasing and geographic location.  Please be aware that responses of individual organization types or geographic locations may be very different. Granular analysis of these results is available as part of various paid-for reports based on the 2013 BBS data set. For more information about this report, please contact Devoncroft Partners.

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Related Content:

The 2013 Big Broadcast Survey (BBS) – overview of available reports, including covered brands and product categories

Largest Ever Study of Broadcast Market Reveals Most Important Industry Trends for 2013

Tracking the Evolution of Broadcast Industry Trends 2012 – 2013

Analyzing Where Money is Being Spent in the Broadcast Industry – The 2013 BBS Broadcast Industry Global Project Index

Broadcast Technology Products Being Evaluated for Purchase in 2013 – 2014

Ranking Broadcast Technology Vendors Part 1 – The 2013 BBS Overall Brand Opinion League Table

Devoncroft Partners: 2013 Broadcast Industry Market Research Findings

Previous Year: The 2012 BBS Overall Brand Opinion League Table

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© Devoncroft Partners. All Rights Reserved.

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