Broadcast innovation: is TV facing up to the Internet era?

Broadcast innovation: is TV facing up to the Internet era?

A perspective from the first day at IBC 2015, Amsterdam

DCX3000In almost every industry, technology is playing what many like to call a ‘disruptive’ role. This was very apparent at the keynote sessions on the opening day of the broadcast industry convention, IBC 2015, in Amsterdam this week.

With the convergence of broadcast, software and telecoms, the conference explored ‘The Future of Media in an Age of Disruption’, looking at some of the business disruptors, and examined how the industry can seize the new opportunities being created by the explosive growth in the consumption of TV and video content on smartphones, tablets and laptops.

It was certainly clear that the industry is trying to figure out how the new technology can sit with existing business models, and if they can – in one of the keynotes, ‘Is TV facing up to the Internet Era?’ Broadcaster and publisher Andrew Neil did well to stimulate debate between the old and the new, and to tease out some of the challenges that pure internet players face.

He posed the big questions to industry leaders most affected by the connected era. For example, how will the TV industry transform itself to ensure it delivers on this internet era of television? Will new entrants with no legacy but an internet background take over? How fickle is the TV consumer and just what are the positions of leverage to combat the players with nothing to lose and everything to gain?

With the future of video delivery shifting towards IP, is the internet a distribution system capable of delivering to everyone, in high quality, the TV experiences they demand? And who ultimately pays for that infrastructure, given the recent moves in the Net Neutrality debate. In the meantime, how well are broadcasters, platforms and content owners embracing the big issues of content rights as the EU looks towards a Digital Single Market?

There was no right answer as Tom Toumazis of Yahoo argued the case of the internet companies very well, while the Bruce Tuchman of AMC and Sundance Channel Global, defended the broadcasters’ corner vigorously. There was a real dichotomy in the debate – in the digital age, it’s all very well to think that consumers can simply subscribe to a broadband service provider and pick and choose their content plans from one of the over-the-top providers, but then who pays for quality content production in the first place? What happens to the investment required to produce this quality content.

Also, with the ability to deliver content completely over IP, what happens to regionalization, and in particular, how will broadcasters protect their content rights deals in different geographic locations? Or will IP networks allow content to be delivered globally? It seems that it will be difficult to break traditional models where content producers have lucrative rights agreements across different territories and local broadcasters.

In another panel, we heard about how man-machine interfaces, human sensing technologies and search & recommendation algorithms have come a long way. Rovi talked about their latest natural language recommendation systems; we also heard how sensors can determine a viewer’s posture, behaviour, emotion and interest; and how analytics combined with social media can provide new commercial opportunities.

It was clear that data analytics in the cloud plays a major role in helping to personalize content recommendation and delivery – this was apparent from both Rovi and Amazon, and the knowledge graphs that they build up with millions of data points to help understand how to enhance a viewer’s experience.

We’ve heard a lot about the Internet of Things (IoT) in many industry sectors, but it doesn’t get talked about in the broadcast industry. So enter the IoT at this year’s IBC conference – Muthiah Thangarajan of Tata Elxsi in India argued that the IoT will also impact the content creation and distribution industries, particularly as some of the ‘things’ (like cars) may need personalized content too.

In summary, this is only a small snapshot of the debate on the first day of IBC 2015. Technology innovation is certainly challenging some of the business models in the broadcast industry, but it’s not just because of technology per se. It’s actually arising because consumers demand content everywhere, any time; they demand personalized experiences, on the go, and especially with millennials, they want this on the go, whether it’s mobile or tablet device. In order to meet that demand, technology companies and broadcasters will eventually need to work out an effective compromise to deliver to their customers.

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