The broadcast industry is vast, encompassing everything from studio cameras to networking technologies, and post-production effects to streaming video. Broadcast media is arguably the most innovative technology landscape and the industry’s advancements reflect that year on year. 2019 has been a significant year for change, with many viewers making the leap toward digital. Broadcast television is not dead – but it is evolving rapidly and there is a rising need to transform to avoid becoming irrelevant. Transforming involves shifting from serving a TV audience to serving audiences, no matter where they are, essentially evolving from being a TV broadcaster to an overall broadcaster.
Broadcasters are identifying key trends and changes in the industry to be able to determine how to adjust their media strategies, what tactics will lead to success, and how to better prepare for the future. Broadcasters in the Asian region are keenly investigating live 8K digital terrestrial and satellite video transmission, immersive video, and audio technologies, including 3D TV, AR and VR, and AI in applications ranging from color correction to sports analytics.
The move to remote live production
The rise of remote production is perhaps one of the most important wide-scale technology advances. Remote production looks set to undergo a paradigm shift and developments, such as 5G, are boosting remote workflows. Traditional broadcasters who were struggling to elegantly migrate to IP back in 2017 and 2018 are rapidly coming to terms with off-premise and hybrid cloud solutions that are changing media workflows significantly.
As four primary technology enablers – the internet, smartphones, cloud, and IoT – evolve, premium content owners are embarking on large-scale media transformation journeys to strengthen their market share, using a core growth strategy – multiscreen TV and video first. Content owners are also differentiating their offerings as television audiences continue to fragment and digital-born platforms increase competitive pressure, through the 2L (live and local)-content approach. As they increase their investments in niche live-content repositories in order to grow lifetime audience-engagement rates, premium content owners are embracing the IP content supply chain, which lies at the center of the transformation roadmap.
The traditional live production workflow – encompassing legacy outside broadcasting (OB) vans, technical human capital, and on-site facilities – is inefficient, lacks cost-effective real-time work group collaboration, and has higher set-up configuration costs. Customer acquisition strategies for most premium-content owners are woven around a horizontally diversified volumetric approach – that is, increasing multifaceted content production with only incremental increases in human capital costs. Their shift of focus to multidimensional content enrichment, monetization, and reach will be a pivotal factor in their adoption of remote production workflows in 2020.
Remote production workflow adoption is currently at a nascent stage, with most premium-content owners deploying these solutions for standalone large-scale live events. A hybrid model approach – leveraging both local/on-site and remote production workflows – will persist, due to content owners’ zero-risk tolerance of failure with their time-bound projects. Sports events will be a primary driver for premium content owners’ investment in local time-bound repositories, followed by profitability and premium quality of service (QoS)/quality of experience (QoE).
In the near future, as penetration of IP infrastructure across the content supply chain (including production) rises, there will be a variety of new business value propositions in remote production.
Revolutionizing broadcasting with deep learning, AI, ML, and AR
Broadcasters and movie studios alike are starting to explore the huge potential of modern technologies to bring a new generation of filmed entertainment to TV sets and cinemas. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, deep learning, and augmented reality are the buzzwords that excite video executives with promises of revolutionary new abilities for video creation and editing.
AI is certainly hot news, but that is hardly surprising – it has been part of the technology trend furniture at least as far back as 2017. However, the technology is maturing fast, moving from concepts and interesting potential use cases to concrete projects and actual value delivery in 2020. From workflow automation and speeding up sophisticated VFX rendering, to creating new content from archive material, AI and ML are rapidly coming of age.
Deep learning, in particular, is the new frontier for the video industry. There are many opportunities to apply deep-learning techniques in the field of video production, editing, and cataloging. But the technology is not limited to automating repetitive tasks; it can also enhance the creative process, improve video delivery, and help preserve the massive video archives that many studios keep. Deep-learning use in film and broadcast has only begun to nibble at the edges of what it will be used for in the future.
There are two strands to AR in the broadcast, media, and entertainment industries. The first is the creation of virtual objects within a live-studio environment. The industry is already seeing this in TV production today – stats next to photorealistic representations of football players at the 2018 FIFA World Cup; journalists standing in digital representations of parliament as the votes come in during an election. As for the second strand, high-speed 5G connectivity will bring AR into the mainstream, extending IP into new digital spaces and encouraging new forms of storytelling.
Esports bursts into the mainstream
Esports has captured the imagination of the masses and it represents a powerful force shaping both media consumption and technology requirements. After a bumper year of sports in 2018, where highlights included England’s nail-biting progression through the football World Cup and Europe’s Ryder Cup dominance, and with no Olympics in sight for another year, expectations for 2019 were subdued at best. And yet 2019 surpassed all expectations and paid testament to the continued strength of linear TV, the increasing influence of digital disruptors, and the power of new players on the field.
Linear broadcasting is unlikely to loosen its grip on the sports industry any time soon, and in fact, with the addition of the Paralympics to the crown-jewel free-to-air channels, linear looks set to draw even bigger audiences in 2020. While positive, this will bring its own challenges, and as the sporting calendar gets more crowded, broadcasters will need to experiment with how best to capture viewers’ divided attention.
Although viewers are consuming more media than ever, there is a fragmented engagement pattern across devices, platforms, and content services. Audience’s demand for 24×7 content availability has forced broadcasters to adapt delivery models, so rights holders can follow and grow their audiences, whilst the two-way nature of social video has created opportunities for viewers to engage with content more actively.
Cloud-based platforms, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), centralize how broadcasters transform, process, deliver, and acquire content. As digital viewing continues to rise, broadcasters will increasingly look to the cloud to deliver content across multiple platforms.
8K moves up the agenda
The use of 8K for delivering a higher production value in TV drama or even mid-budget features is increasingly unremarkable. Yet, there is a cavernous gap between using the oversampling for archival or digital intermediate purposes and playing back 7640×4320 pixels at 60 or 120 fps to consumers. Japan’s NHK is the flagship bearer for Super HiVision transmissions and while the Tokyo 2020 Olympics will provide a showcase, it is thought likely to remain pretty much alone in this regard for some time.
In April 2019, the 8K Association was formed to promote the format. Arguably, it is the display manufacturers that have the most to gain from pressing the 8K button so early. In a Strategy Analytics report, only 56 million homes globally are expected to own an 8K TV by the end of 2025. Even the most mature market, the US, will have less than 10 percent penetration by then. Others view the increasing chatter around 8K as a distraction.
The Ultra HD Forum, whose members include Fox, Sky, and Sony Pictures, says 8K is promising but as far as it is concerned, it is focused entirely on promoting 4K. However, 8K is expected to bring more immersive experiences compared to 4K, mainly through internet delivery. On the device side, TV manufacturers brought 8K television sets to the market in 2019, so the industry is preparing to deliver this experience via the internet. There are many parallels with 8K in the still ongoing move to 4K, during which concerns, such as high production cost, lack of content, and questions over whether the additional resolution can even be seen, were addressed and overcome.
There is no stopping 8K-ready production kit coming to the market, in part because vendors have their eye on corporate video not broadcast. Given these benefits and the likely drop in cost per bit, the adoption of 8K seems inevitable, although one can debate if its introduction will be as fast as that of SD to HD. 4K production has become a de facto standard. Despite this, it seems 8K is a matter of when, not if.
In 2020, there will be acceleration in areas of mobile production, including using IP for contribution and distribution. Media organizations will move past their objections and embrace the many advantages IP and AI will bring. People are now beginning to use the cloud for real-world news production. There will be a further increase in the amount of spend around building out digital infrastructures to serve consumers on mobile platforms, including technologies to not only mine meaningful information about viewing habits, but also to turn that into ad revenue on digital platforms and drive traffic toward their own apps. With the consolidation of so many large-content owners and creators, it is almost impossible to use legacy approaches to combine, conform, and service these libraries, using traditional on-prem storage systems and MAMs. The volume of content being created will continue to grow to meet demand for high-quality content for an increasing number of OTT services. As a result, growing demand is expected for high-performance, highly available, and reliable storage, designed for studio editing, rendering, and other performance-intensive workloads.