The world’s most influential media, entertainment and technology show, the International Broadcast Convention or – IBC – attracts managers and nerds from the broadcast and media industries for the yearly pilgrimage to Amsterdam. So were we, from the Isle of Man.
Owned by a partnership of six industry associations including the Royal Television Society, which Isle of Media is a proud patron of, IBC is the ideal platform to interact and discover the latest trends. 15 themed halls present all the big names and challenger brands of the entire broadcast-video value chain: From ‘Capturing’, ‘Studio Tech’, ‘Post Production’, ‘Cloud & CDN Providers’, ‘Content & Communications Infrastructure’, to ‘Streaming Platforms’. From AWS to Zeiss, from linear TV broadcasters to the big boys from FAANGS, the whole who-is-who of the broadcast world flocks to Amsterdam.
We take a look behind all the marketing hype to figure out what the industry trends driving the fourth industrial revolution really are.
#Convergence of Telecom and Media
As media and telecom companies push into video streaming and telcos are desperate to improve their low margins, gone are the days when content owners and broadcasters ran their bespoke distribution networks and co-existing telcos provided voicecom and broadband only. In an unseen deal frenzy companies like AT&T, Comcast, Disney, Hasbro, MGM, etc. are snapping up competitors. Telcos are bundling in TV subscriptions, and TV networks offer broadband deals. Boundaries have blurred and even vanished as content producers and owners, supposed to understand the emotional side of the consumers best, discover that they are depending on the tech companies to get access to the hard data of their clients. Rightly, IBC dedicated an own ‘TM Forum’ for this, the Media-Telecom Catalyst Programme.
Hurray we have a new hashtag! #Virtualization is out. Seriously, there is no way to avoid a cloud-based operation, may it be in the private or public cloud or in a hybrid architecture. Cloud native applications are a must for performance and cost reasons. The entire playout with encoding, transcoding, scheduling, ingest, encryption and watermarking has been moved to the cloud. Now a new TV channel can be launched within a day on multiple platforms, opening even the possibility for pop-up channels for events. Already a trend a previous IBCs, cloudification is still growing.
Some say prospects are cloudy for the cloud operators themselves, with 5G enabling to bring computing to where it is needed. Rather than using remote data centres far away, most processing of data and AI inference will move to the edge. This could be a huge opportunity for wireless carriers and a threat for the dominant cloud-computing players, whose facilities will be primarily used for storage and running longer computational tasks. Like with the previously mentioned convergence of telecom and media, also here the cloud operators need to team up with the carriers, in order not to be left out of the burgeoning edge market. Longer term, the pendulum might swing back as quantum computing will emerge first in the cloud. The race is on.
Honestly, where is the killer application? It might be mobile gaming or IoT. But on the video and broadcast side of things it’s a nice-to-have, not a must-have. Is it? NTT, the world’s fourth largest telco, who is involved in the Isle of Man TT, presented 5G network slicing. This network architecture enables the multiplexing of virtualized and independent logical networks on the same physical network infrastructure with different SLAs. Tour de France acts as the test case.
Rhode & Schwarz showcased their 5G Broadcast transmission, fully compliant with 3GPP release 14 (= Further evolved Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service – FeMBMS). The company is researching large-scale TV broadcasts in FeMBMS mode using high-power high-tower transmitters. FeMBMS enables up to 100% of the network’s capacity to be dedicated to broadcast services. Some analysts have pitched 5G as a potential disruption and threat to classical distribution methods by cable, satellite, terrestrial TV or now fibre broadband. We think this is a wild exaggeration. 5G will just add to the multi-platform distribution options for the consumer.
Another slow burner, 8K resolution, is now supported by the first TV sets. Shipments for 8K TV sets are expected to be just 0.1% this year, forecasted to grow to 2% by 2023. Transforming the legacy content production chain into 8K will take further time but the 8K kit is now available at affordable price points.But 8K screens as shown by Sony are phenomenal.
We saw virtually nothing. VR appears to be almost as ‘Dead in a Ditch’ as the former hype about 3D television. Of course, there are niches like in gaming and adult content, but for television and cinema, VR lacks content and storytelling techniques. It just hasn’t taken off. Similar with 360-video. Two years ago at IBC still a trend, it went rather silent. But the headsets are getting better as the 11k VR tech shows.
You wonna bet on something cool that works commercially? Take #AR. Adobe, Amazon, Apple, Alphabet all are heavily investing in.
Already @ IBC 2018 every piece of software seemed to be labeled as AI for marketing reasons. But statistical analysis and deterministic algorithms are not machine learning. Still a few projects stood out from the crowd. AI for ‘Regulatory Compliance’ identification of on-air content using visual analysis was one of those. Regulators, cautious about controlling the video content surge, want to make sure that there is a safe and appropriate version for the vulnerable. But also scaring, this technology is per-destined to be used for censorship.
Nothing really new, but remote production has become a maturing trend to re-locate the event coverage content production back into the cost-efficient studio. No need to send out that much personal and vehicles any more, as logging, editing, commentary and graphic design are done back in a central production hub. The OB van has gone virtual. A couple of such systems were on display at IBC. Connectivity is central to this concept. It is no wonder that the production company NEP bought an event connectivity provider SIS LIVE last year. With the efficiency gains it is now possible to produce more coverage of the smallest local events. Just announced this week, BT Sports, using remote production, can increase now dramatically its live coverage of small events like the Vanarama National League, the fifth tier of the English football league system.
As a general trend, costs are coming down everywhere. Good cameras are getting cheaper but cheap cameras are getting really good. From slow motion kit like Kron to the Z Cam. Incidentally both of these co’s are Kickstarter funded. A full micro-studio with camera, graphics PC, greenscreen and lights comes at less than €3,900.
The last barrier for streaming Live Sports & Events has fallen. Low latency streaming was one of the key trends at this year IBC. Now Live OTT can be delivered as fast as on cable, terrestrial or satellite TV broadcast. AWS, Akamai, broadpeak, Harmonic, Limelight, SES etc., they all presented low latency streaming based on ‘Chunked CMAF’. A classical HTTP transmission of video like with HLS or DASH typically causes latency of between 30 and 90 seconds due to sequential buffering of multiple media delivery chunks. CMAF (MPEG Common Media Application Format) as a new standard and its Low Latency Chunk (LLC) option, enable live streaming using microchunks of about just 100ms.
Low latency encoding plays another key role. This approach reduces the delay of an OTT distribution down to ca. 5 seconds. While many company booths just saw a ‘recorded’ demo, SES Satellites set the benchmark not just by a live demo of low latency streaming, but by a unique service of OTT and satellite broadcast being actually in sync. Welcome to the new world of hybrid video distribution! Now most of the required components for the next gen media operations are available – lets go for it!
Nowadays you try to avoid the buzz word ‘disruption’. But the new Californian startup Eluvio has given a dramatic debut of its new, content-centric network approach for video distribution, that if successful, will redefine the media supply chain. Eliminating transcoding and CDNs, the radical streamlining of the traditional media distribution workflow reduces costs by minimizing core bandwidth and storage needs. With no need to create additional copies of files used in networks or for storage, Eluvio’s propriety architecture uses a novel representation of media and data protocol implemented in a blockchain network to create a direct-to-consumer media distribution network.
One of the first users publicly announced is MGM, which is using the Eluvio Content Fabric for global streaming to web, mobile and TVE audiences. Run by CEO Michelle Munson and Serban Simu, the founders of Aspera and inventors of the FASP fast file transport protocol, the creators of Eluvio are no newcomers. If you have shares in a CDN like Akamai, you may want to reconsider your investment. We will observe this promising new technology.
Another takeaway from IBC 2019 is that eSports is going to stay in the TV market, outside their native presence in PC based world of Twitch, YouTube Gaming or Mixer. And obviously the content production workflow for an Overwatch or League of Legends tournament is similar to other (sport) events. With a full day dedicated to eSports, live gaming and live production on display, IBC has made a massive statement that this is part of the media sector.
The debate about the fundamental role of PSBs in the age of #FakeNews continued at IBC 2019, including the topic of Climate Change. Also, sustainability is an opportunity and corporates want to tell their PR story in this space.
Isle of Media advisor Ellen Windemuth, was IBC panel speaker on ‘Creating Content for Environmental Change’. Ellen, known as founder and CEO of the ‘Off the Fence’, a non-fiction production and distribution of global scale and reach, was in Amsterdam to speak about her new venture ‘WaterBear Networks’, an interactive video-on-demand platform dedicated to the Planet. WaterBear has produced a new series including a feature of the Isle of Man Beach Buddies. The video has been shortlisted for the Good Natured: Conservation Optimism short film festival. It showcases the positive influence the Beach Buddies have on the wider community, and the fun they all have in the process, increasing community spirit, general wellbeing and depolluting the beautiful beaches with this UNESCO Biosphere. Ellen was recently presented with Wildscreen’s Christopher Parson’s Outstanding Achievement Awards.
Isle of Man Engagement at IBC
With circa 55,000 visitors and 1,700 exhibitors, IBC together with the NAB in Vegas, is the world’s leading trade show on tech side of the media sector. 200 new companies have joined IBC this year for the first time. The Isle of Man and Isle of Media team had been greatly represented in Amsterdam with two of our board directors, two of our advisors, a team member and four companies with a presence in the island: CG Arial Films, CleerVu, Greenlight TV and SES Satellites.
Meet us next year at IBC 2020, or if you don’t want to wait are interested in joining Europe’s only offshore media hub, home of the famous Isle of Man TT, arrange a meeting! Email: email@example.com
Isle of Media
Isle of Media is the national development agency for the thriving Isle of Man video, broadcast and film sector. Set up as a not-for-profit Public Private Partnership with the Isle of Man Government to drive inward investment in Digital Media and foster the indigenous industry and talent, we provide pro-bono advice to develop your next media project on the Isle of Man.
We promote the Island’s excellent capabilities in financing and growing media ventures, its stunning filming locations, its exceptional talent and world class telecommunications infrastructure, we support and attract the whole industry supply chain: production, post-production, global distributors, ad agencies, consultancies, OTT operators and satellite broadcasters.