Man examining a full-wall touchscreen with many menus.

By an overwhelming majority, respondents to our Instant Opinion Poll in January view the ongoing migration of all media operations to an IT-based environment as anything but business as usual. In fact, 78% of you said that the SDI-to-IP technology changeover was a once-in-a-generation transition, scoring much higher on the degree-of-difficultly (and disruption) meter than, say, the evolution from SD to HD or from MPEG-2 to MPEG-4.

We also know, based on a not-so-instant survey from last year, that media industry professionals are just as concerned about the cultural disturbances of a shift of operations to a new technology foundation as they are the technological ones. Nearly half of you told us you were worried about weathering the potential job-related fallout associated with applying your skills and expertise to a new technology environment.

Concerns range from the need for additional training to overall job security. Some of the questions broadcast engineers may be asking include:

  • Do I possess the skills to architect, support and troubleshoot IP-based facilities?
  • Will I require extensive retraining, including new certifications?
  • Will I be reporting to the CIO?
  • Will my job be devalued given the size of the IT workforce?
  • Is my career in jeopardy and will I be displaced by a new breed of IT-savvy engineers?

The unvarnished reality for today’s broadcast engineers and other media professionals is that the transition to a more agile and flexible technology platform, mandated by the need to meet evolving and increasingly personalized consumption habits, will bring changes to your day-to-day job descriptions. There’s no sugarcoating the fact that media professionals will need to understand how IP networks work and acquire some degree of proficiency in IP network design principles and terminology. How much expertise is still up in the air and will likely vary from company to company and depend heavily on the manner in which media companies integrate — or keep segregated — the media production and IT portions of their organizations.

Degree of Difficulty

The number and degree of difficulty of the new skills broadcast engineers will need to acquire will vary among organizations.

At a minimum, broadcast engineers will need to learn a new lexicon. Overcoming the jargon of a new specialty is often the first – and sometimes the biggest – hurdle to gaining proficiency in a new discipline. Broadcast engineers and IT specialists sometimes use different terms for the same concept or, even more confounding, alike terms for dissimilar concepts. The terms router and routing, as obvious examples, mean different things to broadcasters and IT professionals.

Transitioning skill sets to a new technology environment, though, will likely require more than simply breaking through language barriers. Additional education and certification from established enterprise and cloud IT specialists, such as Cisco or Microsoft, is a strong possibility. Chances are that you’ll need to join the ranks of those who have been certified to work with equipment from one or more of a dozen makers of IP-based routing and switching gear. Familiarity with popular IT configuration and troubleshooting software, such as Chef, Puppet and Wireshark, is probably in your future, too.

In larger media companies, broadcast professionals may be able to leave much of the heavy lifting to IT specialists, functioning more as consultants and network architects to ensure that the resulting network delivers acceptable latency and is capable of the split-second synchronization that complex and multi-camera live broadcasts require. Other scenarios may require broadcast engineers to possess the skills to assemble broadcast-quality IP facilities, meaning they will need familiarity with and proficiency in IP network architectures, like leaf and spine, and Software Defined Networking (SDN), as well as troubleshooting skills, such as Ethernet debugging.

At the extreme end of the broadcast engineer IP transition spectrum is the need for a new job description and title. Some industry experts suspect that the assimilation of broadcast engineers into the IT realm will be significant enough to result in an entirely new job description, one that is essentially equal parts broadcast and IT. Already popping up on some job boards are titles like IP Broadcast Engineer or Broadcast IT Engineer.

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portatif of Steve Reynolds


Steve Reynolds

Steve Reynolds is President of Imagine Communications, a global leader in multiscreen video and ad management solutions that broadcasters, networks, video service providers and enterprises around the world rely on to support their mission-critical operations.

Steve brings 25 years of technology leadership in the video industry to Imagine Communications. He has served as the CTO at Imagine Communications and Harris Broadcast, Senior Vice President of Premises Technology at Comcast, Senior Vice President of Technology at OpenTV, and CTO at Intellocity USA.

Steve earned a MS in Computer Engineering from Widener University and BS in Computer Science from West Chester University. As the Chairman of the AIMS Alliance and a member of SMPTE and SCTE, he has participated in numerous standards-making bodies in the cable and digital video industries. Steve also holds over 40 patents relating to digital video, content security, interactive television and digital devices.