Author(s): Paolo Pescatore
From 7 to 12 April 2018, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) will once again present its annual event in Las Vegas. CCS Insight will be attending the annual show and will provide a full report in the days after the event closes.
In 2017, the show gave evidence that the entertainment, media and telecom industries in the US would face major disruption, and we've certainly seen some important developments over the past 12 months.
Traditional broadcasters have been forced to rethink their strategies; a great example is Disney, which announced plans to launch new online video services. I expect to hear more about this in the coming months and possibly at NAB. But perhaps the bigger news was its decision to pull its programming from Netflix.
Let's not forget that Amazon and Facebook both successfully secured TV rights to broadcast live sports, and the latter also introduced its video platform Watch.
Jumping on the Streaming Bandwagon
All broadcasters are seeking to roll out online video platforms and move into delivering live TV services. Most recently, Turner announced plans for an online video sports service that promises to offer flexible pricing.
The industry is now awaiting a move from Apple. I've long believed that the company will launch a subscription video-on-demand service to complement its march into music. Earlier in 2018, Apple filed a patent application for a content streaming system that could include both live and on-demand content. Rumours are mounting that Apple will make an announcement in this area in the next few months.
Apple won't be exhibiting at NAB, but I believe it will be the subject of a lot of attention behind the scenes. I expect that the likes of Facebook and Google will play a bigger role at the show than in previous years.
Beyond providers, the event will showcase new technologies and solutions focussed on delivering video streams at scale over the Internet. As part of this, we'll see a slew of companies touting solutions integrating cloud and network personal video recorder features. I also predict that new codecs and compression techniques will emerge, to efficiently deliver high-quality video in 4K, high dynamic range and 8K over satellite, fibre and mobile networks. Furthermore, like IBC 2017, the show should also offer news relating to the use of 5G networks for video contribution (see Event Report: IBC 2017).
I expect to see a lot of emphasis on the ATSC 3.0 standard, announced at last year's show. This standard aims to take advantage of broadcast and broadband connections to deliver over-the-air and online content to consumers as well as support for ultra-high definition material. It offers US broadcasters a glimmer of hope, but given that there are considerable obstacles in place, I believe the technology is likely to fail. As an example of these challenges, Netflix now has almost 55 million subscribers in the US and net additions amounted to more than 5 million in 2017. This is significantly higher than traditional providers like Comcast or DirecTV, which continue to lose video and TV customers.
Furthermore, consolidation will be heavily discussed behind the scenes and during conference sessions. It's unlikely that the antitrust suit by the US Department of Justice against AT&T over its acquisition of Time Warner will have been resolved, but the outcome will have a significant impact on future corporate activity in the US. Some broadcasters and telecom providers are in a vulnerable position and need to merge with rivals to compete with similar companies as well as deep-pocketed online video giants. In turn, this will heap further pressure on solution providers, as underlined by the well-known struggles faced by Ericsson.
Artificial Intelligence and Data
As the cost of acquiring content shows no signs of easing, content rights holders are exploring new sources of revenue. This is an area where artificial intelligence can have a vital role. Beyond helping in the search for the next blockbuster, the technology enables companies to evaluate the potential revenue of new content. It also allows them to identify gaps in their portfolios and to guide them in promoting the right shows to each audience and country.
Artificial intelligence is also having a huge impact in other areas. Changes in the way content is produced, created and distributed are opening up opportunities for new parties to move into video and TV. Therefore, we will see a greater presence on the show floor from IT companies including Amazon Web Services, IBM, Microsoft and Oracle. Their presence reflects the growing opportunity for such companies as the TV industry transitions to virtualised operations.
All about Live Sports
I've previously mentioned that sports is one of the few genres fuelling viewership of live TV. Rights holders will be seeking offerings that allow them to create an immersive experience for consumers. So, I expect to see providers of niche solutions focussed on introducing innovative features in TV graphics, ad insertion and more. In line with the growing importance being placed on sports, the show will dedicate an entire day to topics central to the sports and entertainment industry, with a Business of Sports Entertainment track.
The show covers a broad spectrum of areas including audio, cameras, lighting and more. Personally, I'm keen to hear more news about 4K and 8K camera systems, particularly in light of the 8K TVs announced at CES 2018. Japanese broadcaster NHK is gearing up to show the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo in 8K, and there have already been some tests in 8K and 5G production at the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang.
Over the past year, I've noticed that virtual reality appears to have stalled. However, major announcements made in late 2017 and at CES 2018 signalled that momentum for the technology is picking up again (see CES 2018: Virtual and Augmented Reality). Although it's still a niche category, the industry is slowly addressing important hurdles in content availability, comfort, compatibility and affordability. Therefore, I expect to see more professional cameras showcasing these technologies at the event in Las Vegas. I still believe there's growing interest among content and media owners to produce virtual reality content, but cost and the lack of a viable business model remain prohibitive.
There will undoubtedly be plenty more news from Las Vegas, so stay tuned for our NAB event report. For updates during the show follow me on Twitter: @paolopescatore.
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