IBC2019 is almost here. Between now and then Radio World will conduct several short Q&As with manufacturers about their plans and offerings, to help you get the most out of the big annual trade show. Werner Drews is managing director at 2wcom.
Radio World: How has business been for the company since IBC2018?
Werner Drews: To be honest, we were a little surprised with our success. 2018 was the second best year in 2wcom’s 20-year history. This trend continues in 2019. We have expanded our development team to assure implementation of new technical requirements of the markets can be fulfilled time-efficiently. The market directly adopted our new product line, 4 Audio, and we have completed the some big international projects for our customers. The next projects are in the queue, so we are very optimistic about the future.
Radio World: What are you hearing from your customers about their business outlook this year? In what areas should we expect growth or the most interesting projects?
Drews: We have won some large tenders this year, so the business is clearly going very well for our customers. We get requests for FM and DAB with almost the same frequency, so our clients are looking to expand in both markets. The big topic of course is “everything via IP.” Requests for transcoding and the exchange of data in mixed networks are very interesting, e.g. from Livewire to Ravenna when transmitting from a studio site to the headend.
Radio World: Stepping away from your particular segment, what is your feeling for the overall health of the radio industry?
Drews: It’s hard to tell. On one hand, we see a shift in the way people consume media, trending toward more personalized consumption away from linear programs. Podcasts and streaming services like Spotify are real competitors for radios, especially when they offer offline options. On the other hand, technology is changing as well. The rollout of new transport technologies like 5G in the next couple of years could also be used for broadcasting radio programs via IP. However, it’s still going to be a while until 5G or wide area WLANs are available everywhere and a final replacement of the current modes of radio broadcast is feasible in practice. Until we can ensure excellent coverage with these newer technologies, FM and DAB will retain a good position. And while mobile phones are replacing the radio in more situations, radio remains strong in places where people spend a lot of time, like in the car or the kitchen.
Radio World: You’ve been active in the audio and video distribution market for more than 20 years. What’s the biggest problem or challenge facing users in this segment right now?
Drews: One of the biggest challenges is the speed of the current development — it has never been faster! Technology is progressing year on year and customers need solutions that meet these new requirements. In addition, devices are morphing to multipurpose systems that are able to handle different functionalities in much higher density. It’s not always easy to explain these products to customers because of their multipurpose approach. Old descriptions like RDS encoder, satellite receiver or stereo generator for instance are no longer accurate. It’s challenging to describe — in concise terms — what a multipurpose platform (that comprises many units in one box) offers in a way that is quick and easy to grasp for clients.
Radio World: What new goodies will your company be showing? Why should attendees visit your booth?
Drews: One of the most interesting reason for customers to visit us at stand 8.E78 is that our well known AoIP, MPX over IP and FM/RDS solutions are undergoing a monumental change. The common denominator is a Linux-based and well thought-out technological concept. Our goal is to provide new products, which support broadcasters navigating to the next gen of audio technology. Each device of the audio-IP series, like IP-4c or MoIN [Multimedia over IP Network] server ensure outstanding flexibility in application, high compatibility and support studio-to-studio or studio-to-transmitter links as well as broadcasters increasing cross-media tasks.
For our established FM/RDS and MPX over IP solutions the new state-of-the-art, hybrid and modularly configurable 4audio MPX series will replace all existing products, like C02, S02 or the analog/digital MPX over IP codecs. One advantage, for example, is that the devices are configurable respective to client needs — a stereo generator, RDS encoder, MPX over IP codec and satellite receiver in just one 19-inch rack unit. This saves money and rack space.
We just launched the high-density DAB-4c ETI/EDI convertor to address some special challenges in operating expanded DAB networks including EDI and ETI multiplexers as sources. The converter enables customers to operate legacy ETI and EDI transmitters in parallel. Moreover, it is possible to operate DAB in already existing infrastructures (such as DVB-S/S2 or ASI) originally not intended for DAB.
Radio World: What do you anticipate will be the most significant technology trend at IBC2019?
Drews: As in previous years, anything related to IP. All devices have to work via IP and the customers are beginning to look more carefully at the IP security of these solutions. All standard IP protocols and devices must be compatible with other IP products of a network.
In addition, the trend is moving toward more density. This means everything must be delivered in one device, or even better, function as software only. What I mean by this is that each function can run on standard PC-based machines in virtual environments. A cloud-based technology is also becoming more important for the customers. I’m sure 5G broadcast will also be a main topic of the show.
Radio World: How do your international sales and marketing efforts differ from your U.S. efforts?
Drews: The U.S. industry very often needs their own standards, their own products, just using the same products and technologies like in other parts of the world is not 1:1 possible. So we are “Americanizing” our products before we make our products available in the U.S. Of course you have to go to the U.S. shows as well to be part of that market — yet this is not enough. There are many specification groups and forums where one needs to be present as well.
Radio World: Will you be attending any sessions or looking forward to any events?
Drews: I’m mainly focusing on meeting our customers and dealers to understand their requirements and to exchange thoughts. The IABM breakfast meeting and some standardization meetings are also interesting. Moreover, many of our engineers will be joining us on our stand this year. They will also have time to attend various targeted sessions. In my opinion, IBC offers great networking opportunities and we are able to meet people from all different kinds of technologies and divisions.
Radio World: You’re a show veteran, how has the show changed since your first visit?
Drews: The show is getting bigger, louder and more international. But I love it — it always feels good being there. The basic principle has not really changed, but for us the show is becoming increasingly important each year thanks to our expanding customer base.
Radio World: What’s your favorite thing about this show?
Drews: Meeting people! In our world of social media and many ways of digital communication it is more important than ever to meet in person and work with your customer and partner in a team. The IBC is perfect for this! Networking is very important in the broadcast industry. We are a small, very specialized family, and so it is good to know your customers and competitors in person. Another aspect about the show is that it allows us to learn more about new technology and trends in the market and, of course, what the competitors are doing.