Turning point: Broadcast tech will never be the same

Turning point: Broadcast tech will never be the same
Ian Trow, Harmonic
March 31st 2017 at 12:53PM : By

Will HDR be mainstream in 2017? Probably not, says Ian Trow, senior director of emerging technology and strategy at Harmonic. But there's no doubt broadcast is at a major turning point

Last year saw a major shift in the industry as video content and service providers began to dabble in UHD and embraced cloud technology in an effort to streamline video production and delivery as well as reduce costs. What are the implications of these new technologies and what will the next six months look like?

At the moment, we’re seeing increased interest in targeted advertising. I anticipate that this will be the year that targeted advertising overpowers the spot ad, as video content and service providers look to provide a more personalised video experience and boost their revenue potential. Harmonic’s customers are transitioning from SDI baseband video compression headends to IP and software in an effort to increase flexibility and efficiency. It’s all about catering to user preferences, similar to what consumers experience in the streaming world.

Transport stream splicing and viewer analytics are required capabilities in compression solutions moving forward. While targeted advertising used to be difficult for broadcasters and other service providers to implement, a connection between viewers and the transmission point now exists thanks to next-generation STB and cable infrastructure. Broadcasters, in particular, need to support this level of interactivity to sustain their advertising revenue and fight back against online and smartphone advertising.

On another note, UHD TV is gaining momentum around the world. Recently, Strategy Analytics reported that the Western European UHD TV market shipped more than five million sets even back in 2015. What’s impressive is that Germany and the UK became the first countries outside of the United States and China to ship more than one million 4K TVs in a single a year.

Thanks to the internet, the functionality of video has become ubiquitous and is a standard feature in an enterprise domain

The year of UHD and HDR?

With UHD going strong, many people in the industry think 2017 could be the year of UHD HDR. HDR will undoubtedly enable viewers to enjoy the ultimate television experience. But I believe it’s going to be limited to proof of concept, with a few operators delivering HDR to a limited set of screens.

Screen availability is an issue. The majority of UHD TV sets in homes are SDR. Until there is an agreed upon industry solution for delivering UHD HDR to legacy screen sets, many video content and service providers will be reluctant to adopt HDR. Moreover, an end-to-end production workflow is needed. At the latter end of 2017 and early 2018, the industry will be in a better situation to deploy UHD HDR to the masses.

Software-defined networking and cloud technology have become hot concepts for OTT and multiscreen delivery, and that trend will continue. We’re seeing a rapid transition from CAPEX to OPEX service delivery models. Being able to manage the video production and delivery workflow for broadcast and OTT applications via standard IT hardware, over public or private cloud infrastructure, dramatically speeds up time to market for these services. ?

A few leading broadcasters are currently trialing OPEX-based service delivery models for OTT and catch-up TV. Those trials will grow in size, for broadcasters as well as aggregation channels. Sports channels, in particular, appreciate the opportunity to quickly package content and make it widely available to consumers. Expect to see more cross virtualisation between broadcast and enterprise infrastructure. Major enterprises, like hotel chains and automakers, love the idea of using production server capability for professional video applications, such as training exercises.

Thanks to the internet, the functionality of video has become ubiquitous and is a standard feature in an enterprise domain.

The more capacity that’s added, the more is used

Bandwidth issues

On the cable side of the business, bandwidth is still a big issue. Today, video accounts for a very high percentage of internet consumption. In fact, a recent report from Cisco found that by 2019, online video will be responsible for four-fifths of global Internet traffic.

While cable operators have been working on adding capacity to their networks, similar to a highway, the more capacity that’s added, the more is used. A lot of cable operators are looking to transition to 1Gigabit connectivity, which they could achieve via software-based CCAP solutions that streamline this process while resolving space and power constraints in the headend and hub.

Finally, video quality in the streaming environment has become more important than it's ever been

According to a report on US video streaming from Verizon Digital Media Services, 86 percent of viewers say it is very or extremely important to get a TV-like quality experience every time they watch, and on every screen they use.

Viewers in Europe also demand a high-quality video experience. Video compression optimisation technologies are emerging to help reduce operators’ network delivery and storage costs, increase their ability to reach more consumers over congested mobile networks, and enable a more consistent viewing experience with enhanced video quality and less buffering.