The event, hosted by Al Jazeera and the first of its kind to take place in the MENA region, will provide a venue for media executives and technology industry leaders to discuss how technological changes will shape the future of media.
“[TV] is changing,” says Mohamed Abuagla, Al Jazeera’s executive director of technology and network operations. “People are not necessarily going to sit and wait for the 9 o’clock news. They want news on demand, the TV is going to be connected to other devices … People still want content. In fact, I think that people are consuming a whole lot more content now than they were before. It’s just that it’s coming to them in 15 different ways.”
Ever faster internet and a host of new smart devices have changed the way people interact with broadcasters.
The changing media landscape has far-reaching implications for both news organisations and the technology vendors who they rely on for the creation and distribution of content.
Abuagla hopes the two-day summit – which features speakers from Deloitte, Microsoft, Avid Technologies and Cisco Systems – will provide an opportunity for both sides to better coordinate their future outlooks.
“There is almost a misalignment in the industry,” Abuagla says. “[Media companies] have their own strategies for growth and their own futuristic thinking about what they want to do and then they figure out what technology and solutions are there to support that vision.”
“And vice versa, you have the vendors who are creating technical solutions, programs and hardware for the [media] industry to use that’s not necessarily based on our needs and problems.”
The summit, Abuagla says, is designed to “bring everybody together, have a discussion and jointly define how the future is going to work for all of us.”
Talks will be held on topics such as cybersecurity, cloud technology and the use of social media in content creation.
One of the big changes that Jeff Rosica, the president of Avid Technology, sees happening in the next five years is the creation of more immersive experiences.
“The biggest sports broadcasts are now using virtual and augmented reality to make viewer experiences more immersive, while filmmakers are enhancing the cinema-viewing experience with immersive audio,” he says.
Rosica is also optimistic about the prospect of moving media production from hardwired systems onto the cloud.
“[By working in the cloud], people from any group, on any device, can work together on media of any resolution,” he says.
Ken Morse, a director of engineering at American tech giant Cisco Systems, also stresses the importance of cloud technology in the future of media.
“The world has definitely flattened and I think people expect stuff when they hear that something’s going on somewhere as quickly as they can,” he says. “Transforming how we move video around will enable us to reduce the time it takes to actually get content prepared, distributed, and it minimises the cost for things like production. It basically makes things faster and cheaper.”
While reducing costs may not sound like the most exciting benefit to reap from using the latest technologies, it could have big consequences for the media landscape by enabling more people to enter.
“Digitisation is a great enabler, and as the cost to do things comes down it reduces the barriers to entry for other entrants,” Morse says. “It opens up the opportunity for more broadcasters from different backgrounds and gives the consumer more choice.”
The authenticity of content and how new technologies might be able to combat the proliferation of fake news will be another talking point at the conference.
“Right now, what we have to do is go frame by frame just to make sure that something wasn’t put together with Photoshop or a tool like that,” Abuagla says. “The computer can do that much faster than we can. So maybe we can infuse the next wave of technologies in a way that they would help us do our jobs much easier.”
Ultimately, Abuagla’s hope is that better use of technology will lead to richer content.
“A new breed of technologies will allow for better stories to be told, stories that will get told faster and stories that will be more associated with social media,” he says. “Nobody has any qualms about it: content is king.”