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5 Technology Innovations in the 2018 FIFA World Cup

5 Technology Innovations in the 2018 FIFA World Cup

FIFA World Cup has always been the center of introducing new technologies when it comes to sports broadcasting. For example, 2014 saw technologies like vanishing spray, goal-line technology, and mind-controlled robotic suit in action.

As 2018 FIFA World Cup kicks off, we look at the five technology innovations that will be used for the first time in the most significant soccer competition of the world.

1. Video Assistant Referee (VAR)

With the International Football Association Board approving VAR in March 2018, Russia is witnessing the first World Cup using video technology as an additional tool for referees. FIFA has deployed VAR at all the matches, where a dedicated team with a lead VAR and three assistant VARs is located at the Moscow International Broadcast Centre.

According to FIFA, VAR is used as an additional tool to “correct clear and obvious errors and missed incidents in clearly defined match-changing decisions.” 33 broadcast cameras and two dedicated offside cameras are transmitting feeds directly to the VOR using optical fiber – eight of which are in super-slow motion and four in ultra-slow motion. VARs can also speak to the referees on the ground using a fiber-based radio system.

2. Electronic Performance and Tracking System (EPTS)

In 2018 World Cup, the coaches of all the 32 playing teams have access to a tablet-based system to track the statistics and real-time video footage of the players. Based on wearable technology, EPTS is a camera-based system that captures data via two optical tracking cameras on the main stand and selected tactical cameras.

EPTS is considered as the second significant innovation for FIFA after VAR. Each team has three tablets – one each for the analyst on the bench, in the stand, and the medical team. The system will also provide statistics around player positioning, passing, speed, and tackles, and match footages with a maximum of 30-seconds delay.

3. Adidas Telstar Ball

For the first time in the history of FIFA, Adidas, the official manufacturer of the World Cup match ball since 1970, has introduced NFC chip in the ball. Telstar 18 – the ball used for World Cup 2018, includes a Near Field Communication (NFC) chip apart from a new carcass and panel design. The chip allows the ball to communicate with a smartphone. Adidas claims that the new model will dramatically improve the performance durability of the ball.

4. Virtual Reality (VR) and 4K UHD Video

4K UHD videos that were tested in 2014 Brazil World Cup is made available to the broadcasters in 2018 Russia World Cup. BBC has confirmed that 4K streams of the match are available on BBC iPlayer on a first-come-first-served basis.

BBC has also made a VR feed available via its VR application to give the viewers a feeling of watching the match from a private box at the stadium.

5. 5G Services

Though yet to be available commercially, the 2018 World Cup is a testing ground for the 5G services for the network providers. Ericsson and MTS have confirmed to install 5G-capable radio equipment covering cover fan zones, stadiums, transportation hubs, and famous landmarks across more than 40 sites in seven of the 11 host cities.

Additionally, Megafon and TMS – the official communications partner, is holding trials of the 5G network across cities during the event.

While the players play on the ground, sports broadcasters are busy competing for innovations off the field to make the experience more real-time and competition more transparent. But for now, enjoy the game!

 

Trends reshaping the future of news stations

Trends reshaping the future of news stations

2017 witnessed Israel’s Channel 1[1] nightly news ending its 49-year old journey abruptly. Closer home, NDTV took its English business news channel NDTV Profit[2] off the air in June. Regional (Kannada) news channel Udaya News[3] also shut down operations in 2017 due to losses.

In countries like the UK and the US, television viewership has declined on an average by 3 to 4% annually since 2012. When compared with the decline in newspaper circulation, there is a steep decline of 25 – 30% since the 2000s in the traditional consumption of news.

Though traditional television formats like 24-hour news channel and evening bulletins still cater to a large audience, with news being easily accessible in the age of digital media, television news providers are facing aging and eroding audience on traditional platforms.

Legacy broadcasters like PSB, BBC, CNN, RTL, ARD/ZDF, TF1, France Télévisions, ITV, etc. are experimenting with online video news to reach younger audiences in this changing environment. Print media, both in India and abroad, like the Daily Telegraph, Vice, Economic Times, Times of India, and New York Times, have started incorporating video as part of their digital strategy. The industry also has some pure digital players like NowThis, WatchUp, Huffington Post, and BuzzFeed is focused on building an audience for distributed viewing via platforms like Facebook and YouTube.

While these are still on experimental stage, we list four key trends below that will reshape the face of news channels:

Mobile Journalism

Thanks to social media, even an ordinary man is a broadcaster today. The newsroom has evolved from being linear to circular. People know what is happening in the blink of an eye. With social media channels becoming a valuable tool to reach out to the potential viewers, news broadcasters are in a rat race to deliver news first across all available platforms. This has led to the emergence of mobile journalism.

Reuters Institute’s Digital News Report indicate a steady growth in mobile use for news. From newsgathering to production, distribution, and consumption, mobile affects every stage of news. Newscasters have started reporting live from the venue using applications like Skype, Hangout, Google’s Duo, etc. Mobile phone cameras are replacing DSLRs to capture superior quality images and videos to be telecasted directly. There is no time lag from ground zero to the living rooms of the viewers, as the production control room (PCR) patches the audio/video of the reporter with the anchor and he is live on-air in practically no time with his news report.

However, broadcasters need to realize that ‘mobile first’ journalism does not only mean rearranging the newsroom or having a responsive website, but about having hyper-relevant, short, and visual stories to tell. Content management system needs to accommodate new and varied formats to cater to multiple devices and platforms.

Distributed Content

Both digital start-ups and legacy broadcasters have started pursuing distributed video strategies. Broadcasters are offering content on third-party platforms without dragging users away from the platform they choose to be on. Analytics company Tubular Labs report BuzzFeed, NowThis News, and AJ+ among the top ten most viewed ‘creators’ across Vine, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.

Tubular Labs estimate that CNN generated 214 million views in January 2016 and Fox News about 172 million[4]. CNN’s ‘Great Big Story’ initiative is an example of how some legacy broadcasters have embraced distributed viewing, and one clear takeaway is that socially distributed videos should be different not only from television clips, but also from website content[5].

However, broadcasters need to address the challenges around monetization and the risk of losing a direct relationship with the audience while pursuing distributed video strategies.

Live Streaming News

Live streaming news is still in its infancy. While some breaking news like terror attacks and events like Olympics do see a spike in the audience, the regular news is yet to catch up. However, news agencies and broadcasters do realize the demand for content around live events.

Apps like Twitter’s Periscope, Meerkat, and Facebook LiveStream are offering live streaming to witness events, where much of the content is offered by ‘citizen journalists.’ Broadcasters like BBC is developing its mobile aggregated content and live video stream – Newstream – that would offer both in-depth analysis and immediate stories. CBS News runs a 24/7 online live stream running content from the news division and affiliates.

However, broadcasters need to address the editorial challenges and the business prospects around live streaming to explore this trend completely.

Long Form

Broadcasters are also experimenting with a longer form of content, mostly interactive videos and documentaries to stand out in the competition. News agencies like Sky News and New York Times are experimenting with virtual reality, allowing users to have an immersive experience of major events from their smartphone. Vice, which started as a print magazine has built an online presence among the younger audience with its documentaries. Although the long form of content is yet to have mass adoption, producers foresee it developing into a mainstream application helping brands carve out a distinct identity.

However, the challenge is to find an approach that adds value to the longer form of content and stays beyond 24 hours – be it by being compelling, having a background, novelty or an angle to the story.

To survive the rat race and remain profitable, news broadcasters need to devise new strategies to reach out to the masses effectively. The news is no longer only about what is happening, but about how the common man wants to view and interpret what has happened and predict the future outcome.

[1] https://www.timesofisrael.com/with-two-hours-notice-and-after-49-years-channel-1-news-goes-off-the-air/
[2]http://www.business-standard.com/article/companies/ndtv-to-bring-down-curtains-on-ndtv-profit-117060101597_1.html
[3] https://tvnews4u.com/sun-tv-network-mulls-closing-operations-udaya-news-gemini-news/
[4] https://tubularlabs.com/yt/cnn, https://tubularlabs.com/fb/foxnews
[5] http://www.gulfcoasthurricanecenter.com/many-people-turning-away-local-news/
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.

5G – The Next Generation Network Is Here

5G – The Next Generation Network Is Here

Pace is the pin-up word in today’s world. Everything should be speedy, efficient, clear with minimum latency time. And it won’t be inappropriate to say that 5G or 5th Generation best represents that. 5G, the much anticipated future network aims at higher capacity communication network which is faster, denser and provides ultra-high-definition output. In short, better implementation of the Internet of Things.

Going by the predictions, there would be 550 million 5G subscriptions by 2022 and 10% of the world population would be covered by 5G networks. 1

5G in Television and Media

Who can deny the impact 4G has made on media and broadcasting industry? It became the trigger point of television’s changing landscape where it brought television viewing from a television set or our computers to individual mobile interface. It paved the way for huge consumption of mobile videos and helped expand the market for everything be it films, music, news, television shows, or any other form of video content.

5G network aims to surpass 4G standards manifolds in terms of data bandwidth, frequency, technology supremacy, high-quality streaming and reduced network congestion.

  • Disruptions Foreseen in Broadcast Industry

While 5G will provide us world class viewing experience, it could also open the door for some serious industry disruption.

  • Innovative Content

Content consumption will bear a major impact due to huge technical improvements in terms of speed and quality. Consumers will enjoy huge improvements with a significant decrease in download and upload speeds.

Almost zero latency is surely going to feed the impatient DNA of the viewers’. This will also help narrow the gap between quality and speed and live streaming of content and virtual reality content will see an uprise in the market forcing its creators for more innovative, original and creative content.

  • Value Chain Effects

The Internet has made ‘Content its King’ keeping major profit margins towards the content innovators. The onset of 5G is predicted to divert the route towards distributors forcing content providers to pay more for efficient streaming of their content.

  • Consumption Effects

Streaming content has been a winner to date with low costs and inferior technology being the key reasons. 5G bringing a major change in download speed bringing it down to microseconds will make downloaded content more feasible and popular in coming times.2

Challenges

But there are two sides to a coin. On one hand, it provides an ideal environment for television broadcast with its top class features like enhanced network speed and technology advancements, it also hints at becoming a threat to the standard ways with which we have watched content until now through cable, satellite, IPTV and broadcast providers, market of which is approximately $500 billion. 3

Some of the challenges 5G would bring in are :

  • Out of the box, content has to be offered to leverage the huge shift from contemporary to mobility.
  • Data rates would be something to watch out for as all advancements lead to increase in costs.
  • Stability and consistency will play a major role in the network’s success keeping in mind the continuous increase in the number of users.
  • The efficiency of end-to-end providence will determine the real-time feasibility of 5G network.
  • Huge investments would be required to upgrade the technology and meet 5G standards.

The Future

It is too soon to comment or anticipate the future of 5G Network. If we look backward, each generation which has come up has aimed at fixing flaws of its predecessors. First mobile network in 1980’s was followed by GSM in 1990. 3G arrived at the onset of the century and LTE rolled out in 2010. 4G was introduced to make consuming data a less unpleasant experience. The work is still in progress and if we go by statistics, 4G is yet to be even launched in various parts of the country.

But the trail seems to break here. It seems difficult to think of any major challenge we can put across 5G which is worth such huge infrastructural investments and changes. Right now, 5G is only a concept whose standards have yet to be established. It is likely to take few years to finalize the whole 5G structure. The foundations are being laid with lots of funding coming from EU, South Korea, US, and the UK to build up 5G research facility.

The momentum is surely building up. A super-fast, super-efficient wireless network is all set to make its mark in the media world by 2020.  It promises to provide us the ability to watch television content over a 5G network connection rather than fixed broadband, cable or satellite in its best form. In fact, the conjunction of speed and technological advancements can create an ideal environment for the television market.

The industry knows what it wants. Internet of things, telehealth systems, smart city infrastructure are some of the features set to figure in 5G thinking. What finally forms a part of 5G spectrum, only coming years would tell. 4

What will 2018 hold for media broadcasters?

What will 2018 hold for media broadcasters?

2018 will see broadcasters streamline their content, technology, and operations for a new segment of customers who consume content on-demand. Driven by the changing content consumption, we foresee media organizations looking at following:

Dawn of the OTT Era

Industry reports reveal that an average Indian consumes 8.5 hours of video content every month on Facebook and YouTube, which accounts for 47 percent and 42 percent of market share. Add the popularity of Over the Top (OTT) platforms like Hotstar, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Jio TV, and VOOT to that, and you’d realize that the way Indians consume digital content has changed over the years.

In India, the popularity can be attributed to access to faster and cheaper internet, affordable smartphones, and the wide range of content on offer. With over 460 million internet users, India is the second largest online market[1] whose smartphone penetration rate is expected to reach more than 28 percent by 2018.

While some broadcasters have already launched their platform like Ozee, others will pick this trend in 2018 and look at launching their platforms. Some may also look to optimize and produce their content on commercially successful OTT operators. Broadcasters will be seen investing in tools and technology to prepare their content and distribute it to CDNs.

Solving the Content Conundrum

OTT has changed the way content is created and consumed. As viewers consume content anytime, anywhere, and on any device, the demand for short-form, high quality ‘snackable’ content has been on the rise. Citizen journalism is gaining momentum, with viewers recording events and posting live on social media for the global audience.

Original, consistent, and addictive content is on demand. With players like Apple planning to invest over $1 billion in original content and Facebook spending a chunk of its marketing budget on content, fresh content production depending on current affairs, mood, and preference of the viewers is on the rise.

However, creating fresh consumable content is only one side of the story. To retain subscribers and provide a shared experience across devices, OTT providers also need to recreate the legacy content with proper archiving, metadata and tagging, and digitization. For this, broadcasters will need to dig into their archives to sort, organize, digitize, restore and optimize legacy content to enable easy search, access, and distribution of content across channels.

Embracing Virtualization

Newer digital broadcast avenues like OTT are creating pressure on traditional broadcasters to lower their Broadcast Operations and Engineering (BO&E) budgets. A survey by Devoncroft reveals that more than 40% M&E vendors have products that operate in a virtualized environment. While it is debatable if ‘virtualization’ refers to only IT infrastructure or the entire content supply chain, the fact is – new, small, and medium-sized broadcasters are gradually migrating their infrastructure to cloud-based solutions.

Moving to IP comes with the benefits of using a standardized connectivity and infrastructure to transport videos from locations to the central facilities and on to distribution. Therefore, broadcasters will continue digital transformation keeping content at the center of business to achieve faster time-to-market, scalability, and agility at a lower TCO.

Enhanced User Experience with 4K, HD Formats

A 2016-report by Chrome Data Analytics and Media[2] reveals that 8.34 million households in India have HD televisions, of which 89 percent have DTH HD connection and 11 percent have digital cable HD connection. However, only 9 percent or 91 channels out of 857 permitted private satellite television stations and more than 190 government channels in India are High Definitions (HD).

With the market share of OLEDs, 3D and 4K television increasing every day, viewers often forget to ask – does India have enough 4K and 3D channels? Wikipedia lists only five 4K channels and one 3D channel.

To address the change in viewership, media organizations will continue to upgrade their technical infrastructure to broadcast in HD or beyond (4K). With 2019 General Elections in sight, it is expected that news broadcasters will upgrade their technology, investing in workflows and solutions for presentation and analysis of election results in high definition.

To summarize, 2018 and 2019 will be the year of digital transformation and adoption of technology focusing on improving the viewer experience.