Author: Debjyoti Gupta

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Virtualization – The Way Ahead for Broadcasters

Virtualization – The Way Ahead for Broadcasters

Virtualization is the doing-away of physical infrastructure in favor of software mimicking the hardware’s functions. From the viewpoint of broadcasters, however virtualization is the employment of equipment to perform a variety of tasks simultaneously or a shared piece of machinery that serves multiple studios or locations. Specialized software running on high-powered machines eliminates the need for dedicated, often-expensive equipment performing individual tasks.

Disney, one of the earliest adopters of the Cloud have set forth an ambitious plan to take their massive master broadcast facilities at New York City and Burbank, California and diffuse them globally – broadcasting from data centers around the world. They feel it critical to separate the data center from the broadcast center. Disney’s host of cable-based channels are preparing for their move to the Cloud.

The BBC has found virtualization to be the way ahead in the race against redundancy that most radio broadcasters are facing. The BBC’s Virtual Local Radio (ViLoR) project centralizes the infrastructure of four major stations at one remote, shared location. While the local stations from four major UK cities shall compile their content independently, their audio files shall be stored, streamed, mixed and processed at the central data center. As radio channels come up against budget-trimming by parent organizations, they can look towards virtual stations to keep up their operations without compromising on the scale.

Hardware heavyweights NVIDIA have devised an ingenious method of optimizing the use of their products. Known for their Graphical Processing Units (GPUs), the firm has set up gargantuan blocks of interconnected GPUs which can be remotely accessed by paying customers – albeit at a fraction of the price of a physical unit. NVIDIA’s workstation grade Quadro & TESLA cards can render video and process data at lightning speeds. By decentralizing the usage of its cards, NVIDIA has ensured optimal and future-proof utilization of its products.

Besides being an obvious financial asset, the adoption of virtualization grants a plethora of benefits to broadcasters both small and large.

Being unfettered from carry-along apparatus has given increased mobility to broadcasters. Growing network speeds and the advent of 5G means it is exponentially easier to set up pop-up stations and better, wider on-ground coverage. Having software-based computing power further allows creative freedom and experimentation. Launching new services over a broadcaster’s existing distribution network is a quicker, less cumbersome process.

Troubled organizations, those which pumped in significant resources into setting up equipment have found a lifeline in virtualization. Letting out leftover space on servers remotely or granting access to their specialized machinery through software-based virtual interfaces – these companies recover costs faster, some even generating profits.

Content creators have struggled to maintain a healthy distance between themselves and the infrastructure support in an organization. Media specialists have long bemoaned limited knowledge of equipment and technicalities prohibiting their creativity. Virtualization provides a seamless way for journalists to avoid the everyday altercations with physical machinery and divert their energies to creating content.

With many of the industry bigwigs already on-board and newcomers seeing the many advantages of a virtual station, embracing a virtual future is soon to become an industry norm.

Video Storage Formats: Then & Now

Video Storage Formats: Then & Now

The Motion Picture Industry had begun to develop in early 1900s. Celluloid Nitrate films were the industry norm till the magnetic tape came into play. With technology, the video storage carriers have also evolved. From carrying bulky video cameras for shoot and storing cans of videos archives to live streaming of video using a mobile, video has come a long way.  Let us look at some key formats through the history of video.

1956 saw the coming of Quadruplex videotapes which were most commonly used commercial distribution medium at that time. Developed and released by Ampex, 2” Quad was the first successful videotape format. The name comes from its four-head wheel which rotated 240 times a second. VR 1500/600 (by Ampex) was the first consumer VTR.

From Videotape we graduated to video cassettes. In 1969, Sony introduced a prototype for the first widespread video cassette, the 3/4″ (1.905 cm) Composite U-matic system. ¾” U-Matic, Sony, 1970 was one of the most successful formats of all time. Until its release, news acquisition had primarily been gathered on 16mm film.

In 1976, Sony introduced Betamax which was the first successful consumer video cassette. It failed in the marketplace against VHS due to its maximum record time despite initial success. Introduced as a competitor to Betamax, VHS, JVC, 1976 was the most successful among all home video formats.

Sony introduced Betacam in 1982, which eventually turned out as the most widely used analog tape based format, later Digital Betacam was introduced in 1993 as a replacement for the analog Betacam SP format. Sony’s D-1, the first digital VTR, featured uncompressed digital component recording and was mainly used in high-end post-production facilities with special effects and multiple layering of video signal.

In 1985, Handycam introduced by Sony was the first portable Video8 Camera with commercial success. The 8mm video format refers to 3 video cassette formats namely, Video 8 (analog), Hi8 (combination of analog and digital) & Digital 8 (digital). And a decade later in 1995, the next generation of digital disc storage was introduced, the Digital Versatile Disc (DVD). The world’s first DVD player was the Toshiba SD-3000 launched in November 1996 and was made available in Japan, US, Europe and Australia.

Blu-Ray is the next generation of optical disc format aimed to store high definition video (HD). Named after Blue Laser, it stores more data than a standard DVD.  DigiBeta is the highest quality standard definition format in common use. It’s 10 bit 4.2.2 with a low compression of 2.3 and a common SD delivery format with many broadcasters. Launched in 1995, DV is a format for storing digital video. DVCPRO, also known as DVCPRO25, is a variation of DV developed by Panasonic and introduced in 1995 for use in electronic news gathering (ENG) equipment. In 1996 Sony responded with its own professional version of DV called DVCAM.

Its competitor is High-Density Digital Versatile Disc (HD-DVD). Promoted by Toshiba, NEC & Sanyo, it is a digital optical media format applying the same disc size as Blu-Ray.  As far as quality of Video is concerned the future belongs to Ultra HD or UHD. The UHD Alliance comprising of 35 companies have laid down UHD Premium Specification in 2016. The specification comprises a list of features that should be included in products like TVs and Blu-ray players to ensure maximum compatibility with other content and hardware produced.

Though availability and quality of recording devices is a huge edge, it comes with disadvantages. Modern recording devices produce 720p, 1080p and 4K video resolutions eating up hard drive space thereby slowing it down. It faces lack of adequate backup feature as well. These inabilities make Cloud Storage Solutions the future of video storage.  Cloud provides excellent features like anywhere access, easy sharing and retrieval and also ensures longevity of the content.

Video content consumption has revolutionized our lifestyle in massive proportions. Surprisingly, the developing economies consume video content in startling way. Africa often referred to as “The Mobile Continent” witness 77% viewers consuming content on smart phones and 53% are interested in mobile video on-demand. UNESCO has highlighted, “much of our audio visual heritage has already been irrevocably lost and much more will be lost if no action is taken.” Broadcasters and content owners must now focus on migrating their valuable media assets to latest video storage formats and ensure its availability for generations to come. The future clearly belongs to the media organizations that adopt digital and offer choice of platforms (any device, any time) and variety of content to their viewers.

6 Key Broadcast Industry Trends to Watch Out for in 2017

6 Key Broadcast Industry Trends to Watch Out for in 2017

With seemingly disparate events like mobile operators providing seamless unlimited data access to its consumers, entertainment shifting from television to video on demand, and web series gaining popularity over traditional content – 2016 witnessed some major shifts in the broadcast and media industry.

A sudden increase in the popularity of streaming services like Amazon Prime and Netflix and the younger generation’s was observed, leading to movement of TV audience to digital platform.

Let’s take a look at the key trends to watch out for in 2017 that would aid this lateral shift.

  1. Big Data Analytics for Viewer Insights

Big data analytics will help broadcasters analyze viewer preference and develop content accordingly. By accessing the large amount of data sets already in store, organizations can perform behavioral analytics of the views to understand the nature of content consumption and deliver accordingly.

Organizations will increasingly use big data analytics to build 360-degree audience profiles based on geographic, demographic, economic and psychographic attributes to understand various touch points and have better insights, thereby improving the entertainment experience for the end user.

Big data analytics will not only help broadcasters develop appropriate content, it will also change the advertising principles in the industry. By measuring ‘binge watching content’ more accurately using data analytics, companies can help advertisers package the right kind of experience to cater to different types of binge viewers.

  1. Virtual Reality Gets Mainstream

The recent announcement of Netflix to bring its programming to the VR realm, the popularity of Waze and PokemonGo are just the start. A report from Manatt Digital Media[1] projects that revenue from augmented reality and virtual reality will reach $150 billion by 2020. Going by the trend, in 2017, virtual or augmented reality will continue to reshape the face of the broadcast industry. By fostering shared moments and creating a shared space where people can share experience, virtual reality will gain momentum.

With programs like Proto-nominee Convrge that allow people to gather and watch YouTube videos together already in place, the broadcast industry will push this idea further to include streaming sites. While some genre of stories like science-fictions and fantasy are more suited for virtual reality that sitcoms and dramas, the industry is set to experiment more with different genres and take virtual reality to a new level.

  1. Increased Adoption of Over-the-top (OTT) Content

Industry reports[2] predict that by 2021, video will account for 70% of the mobile traffic. Forrester[3] forecasts that by 2025, 50% adults under the age of 32 will not pay for TV. Today, if we look around, the prediction seems believable. With viewers increasingly consuming content across devices anytime and anywhere, OTT seems the next big trend in the coming years.

More and more E&M companies are selling their content to streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu. With the streaming services gaining access to new originals as well as libraries of television shows and movies, OTT services are gaining a firmer grasp on the end-user relationship with their advertising free environments.

  1. Create Viewer-centric Content

As the broadcast industry opens up to more delivery options and devices, the packaging and distribution of the content will change significantly. With the viewers empowered to choose the content they want to consume, content curators need to find innovative ways to monetize content that not only attract eyeballs but create repeat viewers.

Creators will continue to move beyond traditional distribution channels and studios to create and retain consumers who are united by shared interests, ideas and experiences. Content creators/ curators will be more receptive of the likes and dislikes of viewers and create and distribute content to suit their needs and preferences, which will create loyal fans that are less likely to churn and have more spending capacity.

  1. Ultra HD/4K Production

2016 saw Netflix leading the 4K streaming with films like Ghostbusters and shows like Breaking Bad and the Blacklist. Amazon has also entered the league with its popular shows like Mad Dogs, Transparent, and Man in the High castle.  However, content selection now is limited with criteria for subscribers to access the content.

In 2017, Netflix and other streaming data broadcasters will continue to film or upgrade their new content in the 4K format. Content curators will create more 4K content and expects TV watchers make the jump to the higher-resolution standard.

  1. Internet of Things Gets Real

The broadcast industry is increasingly opening up to Internet of Things and beginning to see the benefits of connected broadcasting. Imagine your favorite program pausing by itself as your doorbell rings or you leave the room. Or taking cues from the surrounding like lighting and time of the day to choose program automatically based on your mood.

The future of IoT for broadcast industry looks promising. 2017 will see more crowdsourced and real-time content being generated, giving broadcasters more chance to know the audience and improve the viewing experience with more engaging and interactive programs.

Sources:

[1] https://www.fastcompany.com/3052209/tech-forecast/vr-and-augmented-reality-will-soon-be-worth-150-billion-here-are-the-major-pla

[2] http://www.digitaltveurope.net/547432/ericsson-viewing-is-shifting-from-tv-as-mobile-video-soars/

[3] http://blogs.forrester.com/james_mcquivey/15-10-07-by_2025_50_of_adults_under_age_32_will_not_pay_for_tv

Africa and Content Consumption: Rise of the Mobile Continent

Africa and Content Consumption: Rise of the Mobile Continent

Africa’s mobile phone adoption over the last 15 years have been impressive. With around 67 percent, or 1.13 billion population of Africa using mobile phones, it is often referred to as ‘The Mobile Continent’.

According to Informa , the continent has become the second most connected region in the world in terms of mobile subscription. For a continent with more than 50.3 million Facebook users, it goes without saying that a vast majority of the population primarily consume content on mobile phones.

In countries like Nigeria and Kenya, the high rate of mobile phone adoption is bringing significant changes in the lives of the tech savvy population of the continent. What differentiates Africa is, unlike other continent, Africa is a ‘mobile-only’ continent. In Africa, unlike other countries of the world, internet is not another option, but the only option. As the continent still fights for electricity, millions of people experience the internet for the first time on a cellphone screen.

The explosion of mobile devices has given way to a world of possibilities for TV and media consumption in Africa. Users are no more restricted by time or place when it comes to entertainment, but watch their favorite videos or television any time of the day as per their convenience.

A 2015 research conducted by Ericsson reveals that 63 percent of students and 59 percent of young white-collar professionals in Kenya prefer to watch content of their choice on a personal device. Shorter video content is very popular, with about 77 percent users preferring to watch content on the smartphones. The study also reveals that 53 percent of young white-collar professionals are interested in mobile video on-demand.

“Mobile video is particularly prominent in Middle East/African regions, where 72 percent of online consumers report watching video on mobile phones at least once a month, and almost 37 percent say they do so at least once a day,” reports global market research company Nielsen.

The growth of online content industry is further underlined by the production of local content for online consumption. Nollywood, financed at Lagos and filmed in make-shift sets, has become second largest film industry in the world by volume. The industry, with its annual turnover of $500 million supplies content in the form of CDs and DVDs throughout Africa and African communities worldwide.

For example, iROKO Partners, owned by British-Nigerian serial entrepreneur Jason Njoku has six million viewers in 178 countries. Dubbed Africa’s Netflix, iROKO streams Nigerian content in the form of movies and music through its platform.

Taking clue from iROKO’s business model, which is built around ease of access, other local players are also venturing to provide content online. Wabona provides online pay-per-view video streaming service while another South African start-up, Bozza provides a mobile platform for local filmmakers, artists, and entrepreneurs to distribute their content.

According to Alan Knott-Craig, former CEO of free instant messaging application Mxit, African consumers are hungry for online content and are ready to pay for the same. To address the need, Mxit has created a movie portal that allows its users to watch feature-length pieces in five to six parts.

As Africa’s online content consumption grows, broadcasters are focused on African origin content, which amounts to almost 70 percent of the content consumption in the continent. International investors are also becoming increasingly aware of the potential of African content businesses. It is undeniable that online content is a major industry in Africa, and if the bandwidth constraints and data cost are addressed, the continent will be the largest consumer of online media.